Movie Discussion - Gattaca

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Welcome to our first movie discussion thread. This week the featured movie is Gattaca. Seeing as this is our first one, we’ll probably have to experiment a bit with the format. For now, let’s get everyone’s impressions of the movie. Bonus points to whoever notes the interesting/significant feature of the name “Gattaca”. :)

Of course, as we get into this discussion, the obvious topic is going to be genetic engineering. I really felt like this movie presenting one of the more realistic and possible forms of genetic engineering in the near future. We’re actually not far from this type of genetic screening already. Are the warnings of the movie valid? Is it possible to go too far? Where should the line be drawn?

 
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I’ve never even heard of that movie.

 
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Well then sadly you won’t really be able to discuss it. :-P You should check it out though – great sci-fi flick.

 
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Oh, we were talking about having it in the Movie Discussion Club.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I saw the movie, so any discrepancies between what I say here and the actual movie are due to memory lapses.

My primary impression of the movie was that the genetic testing was rather unnecessarily blatant. I’m certain it was done purely for the aesthetics, but it sort of killed my suspension of disbelief to have to wonder why would any company invest in those rows of instant gene test turnstiles when a simple ID card and face recognition software would suffice. I mean sure, testing prospective employees for certain genes is questionable and an issue that needs to be discussed, but it only needs to be done once. Having people prick their fingers every day just to get in is ridiculous; you have their face on file, and they have an ID card. That should be all you need to verify identity.

Furthermore, I don’t understand why there was such a negative emphasis on the designer babies. I know I would pay good money just to ensure that my child doesn’t have any mental or physical defects (it would be an investment; after all, a disabled child is expensive to care for); if I could get a guarantee of a certain and high baseline intelligence, physical capacity, and emotional stability, why wouldn’t I?

Sure, the children of those who cannot afford such treatments will be worse off than the children of those who can – just like the children of those who cannot afford tutors, personal trainers, private schools and colleges are worse off than the children of those who can. I don’t think it’s reasonable to limit such things simply because some people can’t afford them.

 
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I will look into it

 
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Then you might want to rent it some time. It’s something of a modern classic.

I think we should probably begin with the most obvious drive of the film. That is, the idea of discrimination, or perhaps more broadly, the unmeasurable something that makes a person great. That “human spirit” so to speak.
Vincent Freeman (not-so-subtle naming) being more or less condemned from birth to a life of drudgery and poverty by the simple fact that his genome brought up terrible results when scanned by the genetic technologies of the day.
The story follows him as he assumes the identity of a man who had a massively superior genome by the same tests, but who was disabled via an accident.

The story follows, Vincent, as he covers his true identity and strives to keep up with everyone else around him despite his “flaws”. Desperately covering his tracks, in order to preserve his dream of travelling into space. Something that would be denied him due to his genes.

I do believe that the central theme of genetic discrimination is probably in our future, and probably justified. Not fair in the least, but if we can track genes to the accuracy shown in the movie, then it is entirely reasonable to give a “base-line” reading of the capabilities of a person. Of course such a test could never map the potential, which is the flaw that this movie explores.

 
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Yeah, it’s a great movie. I liked it much better than Ctaatgt.

> My primary impression of the movie was that the genetic testing was rather unnecessarily blatant.

I believe the turnstiles were not to capture the genetic code in order to create a profile, but merely for dna identification, which is much more accurate than fingerprint or retinal scanning, and currently harder to fake or bypass.

> Furthermore, I don’t understand why there was such a negative emphasis on the designer babies.

My impression wasn’t that there was a negative emphasis on designer babies, just that there is a concern that if reading one’s blueprint becomes easy, one’s genetic makeup might become more important than one’s skills and determination – kind of like how one’s family name can have more importance than ability in some “nepototic” areas of real life. It’s been a while, but thinking back on the movie, I don’t think there was any reference to the possible negative feelings about messing with nature (unlike 6th Day). I think the movie puts a stronger showcase on using genetics as a new example of judging a book by it’s cover, like any other kind of discrimination.

> I do believe that the central theme of genetic discrimination is probably in our future, and probably justified. Not fair in the least, but if we can track genes to the accuracy shown in the movie, then it is entirely reasonable to give a “base-line” reading of the capabilities of a person. Of course such a test could never map the potential, which is the flaw that this movie explores.

I definitely agree. In addition, I think the movie nicely explores a sub-theme about how the way you live your life can be influenced by what you believe about your own mortality.

I do wish the motivation and emotional changes within Jude Law’s character could have been explored further.

 
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I do wish the motivation and emotional changes within Jude Law’s character could have been explored further.

Indeed, a little after I posted that above I was talking with a friend of mine, recommending she see the movie. And as she was reading the wiki page to get an idea of the plot, she brought up a point I had totally missed while watching the movie. Jude Law’s character was the polar opposite of Freeman, he began life with an exceptional genome, he was born to greatness. He shot for olympic greatness, and failed, only getting a silver I believe, and in response attempted to take his own life. Crippling himself in the process.

Or in my friends words “epic fail”.

He had the potential, and he failed to realise his dreams. Freeman lacked the potential, yet through striving to overcome his limitations he managed to reach them.

I suppose the director may have thought that including too much more about Jude Law’s character would have been labouring the point a little too strongly.

 
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That’s a great analysis, Redem. It’s been so long, I had forgotten the reason for Law’s character’s injury (Jerome Eugene Morrow, as I now see). You’re right, it might have belabored the point of viewing your genetic predisposition as “fate” and therefore not believing it can be changed. But I’m sure there are other aspects of how being part of the privileged elite – yet holding no interest in that world – could be developed. Of course, any kind of publicity for the real Jerome would have caused unnecessary plot diversions for the main theme of the movie…

 
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Are we really considering a silver medal at the olympics to be a failure? And it was a silver against other genetically-selected athletes, right? So really, there’s no particular reason he should have won, right? (please correct me if I’m wrong – I’ve seen the movie a few times, but it’s been years since the most recent). He didn’t hit his goal of gold, sure, but I have a hard time seeing him as a failure (even if he sees himself as such).

 
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He considered himself a failure, by his own standards of success. By the standards of his genes, I would assume, based on the theme of the movie.

Enough so that he attempted suicide.

 
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I thought that one of the stupidest parts of the movie was the part where the doctor says, in essence, “my kid is gonna be natural!”.

The doctor was genetically selected. His wife was almost certainly genetically selected. The they have will be natural, but only as “natural” as the product of two genetically superior beings can be.

 
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Oooh, I hadn’t thought of that Einar. That’s a bit of plot hole…yikes.

 
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From the Doctor’s point of view being genetically selected is “natural” to him, so arguably the hole is one of interpretation of his words rather than a flaw in the script. But yeah, that is interesting, and not something I picked up on.