Science is evolving at an alarming rate leaving humanity and our moral standings in the dust. Science doesn’t care about right and wrong, but people do, and that means developments that could be made aren’t. The ethical questions around cloning and stem cell research are interesting and have plausible arguments on both sides. As a science fiction movie, Gattaca shows a world that very well may exist in our not too distant future, and it’s up to you to decide if it’s utopian or dystopian.
In the future, humanity has figured out a way to genetically modify children before they are even physically conceived. This has created a world full of superior humans who can easily climb their way to the top of any organization or lead any sort of life that they desire. This isn’t true for Vincent (Ethan Hawke), who was born before this scientific discovery with heart problems and the possible growth of mental disorders. Although he is brilliant, these health issues render him inferior in society and completely destroy his goal of traveling to space. He illegally “borrows” the genes of failed swimmer Jerome Morrow (Jude Law). Under the guise of Morrow’s genes, Vincent is finally able to enter the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation and is eventually chosen to travel to the moon of Titan. When a murder is committed at Gattaca, Vincent’s cover risks being blown leaving him dodging the police and obsessively covering his tracks.
This film plays out like an old science fiction novel or short story. The science is never overwhelming or extravagant, but instead feels like it could really happen. There’s plenty to think about after watching Gattaca, especially with the knowledge that we are probably very close to this. Unlike most science fiction films, this feels like more of a drama than anything else. Sure, there is a murder investigation which causes some thrilling and suspenseful scenes, but it’s never really the main point of the story. This leaves the movie feeling uneven at times, especially since the murder investigation takes some interesting twists that aren’t really played up enough. I felt like Andrew Niccol, the writer and director, didn’t know if he wanted to make a thriller or a drama, which creates this weird hybrid.
I feel like the main idea behind the whole plot is to force the viewers to stop and examine where technology is taking us. The movie needs a story, and it is certainly there, but I was a lot more interested in the setting than anything else. The way this film handles the idea of advancements in technology is a lot different than many science fiction films. I feel like the point of science fiction is to warn us about what we are creating for ourselves. Gattaca can be compared to the film Moon, in my opinion. Like in Moon, Gattaca doesn’t try to bombard the viewer with awesome special effects and cool looking technology, but paints a picture of how humanity has ultimately failed.
Getting away from the thematic area, I should mention some of the more concrete aspects of the film. Jude Law and Alan Arkin give great performances, with Law proving again how deep he is willing to fall into a character. Uma Thurman is ok, and I was really unimpressed by Ethan Hawke, especially his voice overs which sounded like he was reading right from the script rather than his character directly explaining the story to us. What’s really nice is the production design. The sets all look really nice and very appropriate for the “not too distant” future that is being presented. Niccol and his crew knew the limitations of the technology and never tried to bite more than they could chew with the special effects. It’s a very nice looking movie.
There is this one awesome scene where Jude Law’s crippled character, Jerome, has to quickly climb this large spiral staircase. This staircase looks a lot like a double helix of DNA, which Jerome has to conquer. That, in a nutshell, is the point of this movie. Humanity should set it’s own goals and not rely on what they are told they can and can not do. This is also a warning. Technology is great, but there are consequences to everything we create or discover. Gattaca isn’t a fantastic movie, but it is quite good. By the end, I was ready for it to be over, but I did enjoy the glimpse into a possible future.