Why Caesar Looks So Human in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Why it’s so easy to love Caesar in the new Planet of the Apes film.

There’s a reason that viewers see such intelligence and soulfulness when they look into the eyes of the lead chimp in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The creators of the movie gave him eyes with whites. Real apes don’t show any white – their eyes appear all dark.

That makes it hard for them to see where their companions are looking, said Penn State anthropologist Phillip Reno. Perhaps having such a natural poker face is advantageous to them. “It’s interesting that humans have evolved to show the whites of our eyes,” he said. “It makes us more expressive and better communicators.”

This New York Times story tells more about human eye whites.

A bigger scientific question raised by the movie is whether adding more heft to a chimp’s brain would lead him to talk and otherwise act human. Read what psychologists, neuroscientists and anthropologists have to say in next Monday’s column.