Film: Screen Scene

Futuristic movies always try to frighten us about what's to come. There are great inventions, such as the eyeshadow that applies itself in The Fifth Element, and the huge chicken in Sleeper.

We learn that the future is a cold and calculating place, designed to have us mutter, "Golly Margaret, I'm glad I don't live in the future where you have to say `Klaatu barada niktoh' to every killer robot you meet."

The futuristic thriller Gattaca is a visual throwback. Classic automobiles move with a whoosh and everybody wears cast-off suits from Men In Black. Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman are lovers who live in a world where gene manipulation rules. Your parents didn't have you, they had you designed.

And so Gattaca plays upon the fear that none of us would be worth anything in a future where man plays God. As Ethan's character Vincent says, "We now have discrimination down to a science."

In our time, discrimination is left to the amateurs. Gattaca's premise - that genetic perfection is an oxymoron - rings true. Just because you're balding, for instance, shouldn't make you a social outcast. We as humans must embrace imperfection, because that is where our gold lies. Even if, like most of the characters in the genetically perfect world of Gattaca, we smoke like chimneys.

But ... wouldn't it be great to take people with fat thighs, and genetically engineer them so they could finally wear corduroys without making a deafening racket? Wouldn't it be great to eradicate, at the molecular level, that problem you have with the French subjunctive? For the ultimate inspiration, Uma got pregnant by Ethan for real in this film - and still stayed thin. It's in her genes. That's it. I'm going to live long enough for gene manipulation, and I shall start saving now.

Go see Gattaca, a lyrical and controversial film that shows the future to be far from perfect. Or, as Dark Helmet says in the futuristic comedy Spaceballs, "Out of order? Even in the future nothing works!"

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