Roger M. Wilcox's review of


(First posted to Bad Movie Night in 2001 or so.)

The most appealing thing about this movie is this: on the splash-poster for the film (which appears on the laserdisc and DVD), Ethan Hawke looks like Count Dracula. Then again, in this same poster, HE gets to stand next to a picture of Saturn, while über-babe Uma Thurman only gets to stand next to a picture of an ovum. I guess women of the future are still only good for making babies.

The film's premise is this: genetic engineering and DNA testing are going to get so good in the future that all of society will be inherently prejudiced against people who WEREN'T conceived with the help of gene splicing. Ethan Hawke's character (Vincent) was born the "chancy" old-fashioned way. Thus, Ethan Hawke must borrow another man's (Jerome's) identity if he's to have any hope of overcoming society's prejudices and getting to ride a rocket ship to the moons of Saturn.

Now, when I try to imagine what would ACTUALLY happen to society if human genetic engineering were widely available, I envision people basically reacting like this:

PARENT: This is my son, Jerome. He's been genetically enhanced.
OTHER PEOPLE IN THE ROOM: Eeeeeeeeek!! Frankenstein's monster! Tampering in God's Domain! Burn him! Burn him! Storm the castle!

In other words, I kinda think that people will tend to be prejudiced against everyone who WAS born with the help of gene-splicing, not everyone who wasn't.

And even if society eventually did overcome its prejudices against test-tube laboratory clone babies from hell, and accepted them as co-equals, I can't imagine the tables turning so thoroughly in favor of genetic enhancement that even non-enhanced people with fantastic abilities are relegated to working as janitors for their entire life.

Anyway, poor Vincent/Jerome now has to scrape all his loose skin cells and hair off every morning, fake urine and blood tests by carrying around hidden caches of somebody else's bodily fluid, and generally not pick at himself in public in order to be accepted. He works for the GATTACA corporation, whose name is actually a shorthand for a DNA nucleotide sequence (GATTACA's business consists of DNA testing services and space missions, which is quite a combination if you ask me). Then, a week before he's scheduled to fly to Saturn, his boss gets murdered. He and the real, crippled Jerome, from whom he bought his new identity, show their concern by going out to a night club and getting plastered. While at the club, Vincent/Jerome tells us that Titan is covered by clouds and that no one knows what is under them. I suppose everybody forgot about how the Magellan mission radar-mapped the entire surface of Venus 'way back in the 20th century.

You can pretty much fast-forward past this and a bunch of other stuff, because it's not until two-thirds of the way through the movie that Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman finally get around to boinking each other. I started to enjoy this scene for a few seconds, then I remembered that those two are married in real life. It's just not the same watching a married couple go at it on screen, you know?

Disappointingly, we never get to see any space scenes, other than a peek out a small viewport. No spaceship swooshing away from Earth orbit. No space stations. No Saturn. No Titan. No clouds impervious to radar on Titan. Nope, all we're left with is enormous, extreme close-ups of Ethan Hawke's fingernail clippings hitting the ground in slow motion. Really loudly.

As future dystopia movies go, this one is pretty blah. It's certainly no 1984, or even a Logan's Run. And remember, There Is No Gene For the Human Spirit™ — because there are SEVERAL genes related to human behavior, I guess.

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