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Andrew Niccol
Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Alan Arkin, Gore Vidal, Xander Berkeley, Jayne Brook, Elias Koteas, Ernest Borgnine, Tony Shalhoub
Writing Credits:
Andrew Niccol

There Is No Gene For The Human Spirit.

In the 21st century, genetic engineering makes possible the creation of biologically superior human specimens ("valids"), who then grow to positions of power and prestige. Would-be astronaut Vincent (Ethan Hawke) born the old-fashioned way, can only hope for a janitorial position at the elite Gattaca Corporation - until he buys the blood, urine, and identity of a perfect but paralyzed athlete. But a murder in the company's ranks attracts the attention of a detective who threatens to sniff Vincent out.

Box Office:
$36 million.
Opening Weekend
$4.320 million on 1279 screens.
Domestic Gross
$12.339 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $19.94
Release Date: 3/11/2008

• Deleted Scenes
• Original Featurette
• “Welcome to Gattaca” Featurette
• “Do Not Alter?” Featurette
• “Substance Test Outtake”
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Gattaca: Special Edition (1997)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 7, 2008)

Folks tend to use the phrase "science fiction" in a fairly generic way that covers a myriad of genres. Action (Aliens), horror (Alien), fantasy (Star Wars), film noir (Blade Runner), comedy(Spaceballs), family drama (ET the Extraterrestrial)... These movies have little in common other than the fact they're all considered to be science fiction.

Action/fantasy-type films dominate the genre. Generally when the term "science fiction" is used, we think of Star Wars, Star Trek, or something else that deals with other worlds and adventures. Really, most science fiction movies spend their time dealing with the fiction, not the science.

Gattaca offers an exception to that rule. Obviously it's fiction, since it takes place in an undefined but "not-too-distant" future. However, the movie's main focus deals with the ramifications of science, particularly in the area of genetic research. What if we get to the point where your baby can essentially be "made to order"? What if science could remove most of the uncertainties that come with reproduction? What would the world then be like? Those are the areas explored in Gattaca.

To the film's credit, the ramifications of these possibilities are looked at calmly and rationally. Many films might take a Stepford Wives or Children of the Corn approach to the notion of a society into which babies can be genetically altered, but Gattaca avoids any overt attempts to shock. It tries to examine what the effects of these scientific advances might be upon those who aren't the best of the best.

Really, the story told in Gattaca relates closely to any other "overcoming the odds" films such as Rudy or Simon Birch. The film's thesis essentially comes down to the tagline for the movie's ad campaign: "There is no gene for the human spirit".

Unlike most films of that inspirational ilk, however, Gattaca is really quite subtle. Yes, our hero has to overcome tremendous odds to achieve his goal, but the movie avoids melodrama and crass manipulation. I usually hate these kinds of "uplifting" films because they're so cheesy and obvious, and they're often quite sickeningly sugary sweet as they push you toward their cloying climaxes.

Gattaca doesn't do that. I did find it to be emotional and actually uplifting, but not in a phony way. It's an understated film, and it becomes surprisingly effective.

One criticism leveled at Gattaca is its slow pace. Yes, the picture does proceed at a less-than-breakneck speed, but I didn't think it was too slow. Really, it's nice to see a film for once that doesn't feel it has to give the audience a big song and dance during every second of its running time; ideas and themes are given time to flow and evolve at their own pace.

Another criticism revolves around its acting, primarily its lead. At one point, Ethan Hawke possessed some box office draw, but Olivier he ain't. Hawke's repertoire here includes smirking and sneering and that's about it. Nonetheless, while he does little to elevate his role, he also does little to hurt it; he's a liability, but not a gross one.

The supporting cast is really a top-notch group, but they do little to distinguish themselves in their roles as well. Alan Arkin is his usual fine self, and I always like to see Tony Shalhoub, but neither they nor most of the others stand out as terrific. The sole exception comes from Jude Law in his role as the bitter, selfish man whose persona Hawke's Vincent assumes. Law's really quite exceptional in what could have been a one-note role; his is the only fully-realized performance in the film.

Despite the high quality of Gattaca, it completely failed to find an audience during its theatrical release in the fall of 1997. This probably shouldn't have been a surprise, since action fans would be disinterested in such a cerebral film, and its sci-fi trappings may have turned off those who go for more thoughtful fare. Its ad campaign probably didn't help much either.

Indeed, the trailer did a poor job of communicating the nature and content of the film. Watching it, you're not sure just what to make of the movie, but its rapid-fire editing and breathless music certainly make the film look more like an action flick than it is. Unfortunately, it makes the movie look like a rather bad action flick, so it's no surprise the crowds stayed home for this one.

Unfortunately, this meant that Gattaca didn't reach much of a crowd, and that's a shame. While not flawless, the movie seems moving and compelling, and it features a generally low-key take that is refreshing. It gets its emotions naturally, and does little to force them. Gattaca offers a compelling and provocative experience.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B+/ Bonus C+

Gattaca appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, this was a satisfying transfer.

Sharpness appeared solid for the most part. Some mild edge enhancement occasionally made wide shots a little tentative, but most of the time the film exhibited good definition. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and source defects appeared to be absent.

Gattaca featured an intentionally limited palette that fit with the sterile depiction of the future. As such, colors looked clear and appropriately saturated, but they weren’t terribly vivid or attractive. Nonetheless, they seemed to replicate the filmmakers’ intentions, and they showed good accuracy with no problems related to noise, bleeding, or other issues. Black levels seemed fairly deep and rich, while shadow detail was clean and visible; low-light situations came across well. The picture of Gattaca presented a positive experience.

Also good but not stunning was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Gattaca. Since the movie wasn’t exactly an action spectacular, most of the mix worked in fairly subtle ways, but it did so effectively. Music came nicely from all five speakers so that the score warmly enveloped the environment, and some solid usage of directional dialogue occurred as well. Many of the effects tended toward general ambience, but these added a lot to the experience, and the track came to life more actively when appropriate. My only complaint stemmed from the fact that some elements didn’t pan especially well. Note the movement of the cars during the sequence when Vincent crosses the street; they tended to transition fairly abruptly. Nonetheless, the soundfield seemed good for the most part.

Audio quality also was fine. Some dialogue was a little awkwardly looped, but most of it sounded natural and warm, and I heard no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects were accurate and clear. They boasted good bass response when appropriate - such as during rocket blasts - and also were clean and lacked distortion. Music sounded lush and rich, with nice fidelity and good depth. As a whole, the soundtrack of Gattaca lacked the breadth and impact to reach “A” territory, but it still worked well for the material

This 2008 Special Edition represents the third DVD release of Gattaca. There’s the original 1998 version and the Superbit edition from a few years later. Audio remained virtually identical for all three, but this 2008 DVD presented a new transfer.

However, it maintained the same “B+” picture grade I gave to its predecessors. The 2008 disc looked cleaner than the others, as it came without their minor source flaws. However, it showed more notable edge enhancement, so it was a bit less crisp at times. All three looked very good, though.

The 2008 Special Edition adds some new extras along with a few returning components. Under Deleted Scenes, we find the same clips that appeared on the old disc. These run a total of 10 minutes, 39 seconds and feature “Hard Walls” (1:00), “Farewell to Caesar” (2:10), “Eighth Day Center (Original Version)” (3:19), “Mission Briefing” (1:00), “Investigator Exposed” (1:23) and “Coda” (1:46). I thought most of the deleted bits deserved to be cut, especially the very unsubtle “Coda” that seems out of touch with the rest of the film. However, I did like “Exposed”, a scene between Detective Hugo (Alan Arkin) and Vincent’s brother Anton (Loren Dean); it added to the former’s character in a nice way, and it should have remained in the film. In any case, I was happy to get to see these unused snippets.

Another component already found on the old DVD, an Original Featurette lasts six minutes, 51 seconds. It features lots of movie clips, a few behind the scenes shots and some bland and uninformative soundbites from actors Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke, and Jude Law as well as producers Danny De Vito and Stacey Sher. It’s a total waste of time.

The Substance Abuse Outtake runs 35 seconds and also appeared on the original DVD. It’s just a joke version of an existing scene that was never meant to be in the film; it’s gag reel material.

The next two components are new to the SE. Welcome to Gattaca goes for 21 minutes, 58 seconds as it mixes movie clips, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We hear from Hawke, Law, De Vito, production supervisor Bradley Cramp, first AD John Woodward, editor Lisa Churgin, location manager Bob Craft, assistant location manager Ilt Jones, VFX supervisor Chris Watts, and property master Emily Ferry. “Welcome” looks at the personality and style of director Andrew Niccol, casting and performances, production design, storyboards and other visual elements, locations, sets and props, the film’s pace, its release and marketing, and some final thoughts about the movie’s legacy.

The absence of director Niccol comes as a disappointment, but the others pick up the slack to a reasonable degree. This remains a mostly technical program, though, as it doesn’t look much at the story or that side of things. Nonetheless, we get some interesting notes about various nuts and bolts aspects of the production, and these facts make the show useful.

Do Not Alter? runs 14 minutes, 51 seconds and includes statements from ITN Science Editor Lawrence McGinty, Cambridge University Professor Martin Bobrow, former Caltech president Dr. David Baltimore, Newcastle University Institute of Human Genetics Medical Director Dr. John Burn, Signum Biosciences CEO Dr. Gregory Stock, Princeton University Professor Lee M. Silver, and American Journal of Bioethics editor-in-chief Glenn McGee. We learn about genetic research and its development over the years as well as aspects of DNA, gene therapy and ethical questions. Despite the piece’s brevity, “Alter” delivers a good recap of various genetic issues. We receive a nice look at the important subjects and this comes out in a concise and interesting manner.

(Catty comment of the day: Bobrow comes with an amusing name, as he sports a pair of the biggest eyebrows in human history. They fill roughly half his head. What’s the genetic sequence for those suckers?)

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Ray Harryhausen in Color! and “Hot Action Movies”. These also appear in the disc’s Previews area along with promos for The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep and Dragon Wars.

No trailer for Gattaca shows up here, which marks an omission from the old DVD. We also lose poster and photo galleries as well as some production notes in the booklet.

As a film, Gattaca offers a moving and intriguing experience. It delves more into ideas than action, which makes it unusual in this day and age, and it works quite well. The DVD provides very good picture and audio along with a decent roster of extras.

On its own merits, I think this 2008 Special Edition of Gattaca represents the film’s best DVD release; it’s definitely the way to go for fans who own no prior version. However, I don’t find much here to warrant a “double dip” for those who do have one of the earlier releases – especially if they don’t care about extras.

To rate this film visit the Superbit Edition review of GATTACA

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main