A television revival of the cult 1997 sci-fi movie Gattaca could explore its themes further in the style of neo-noir mysteries.
It some times feels like every obscure movie and television show is getting a remake, reboot, or revival. While we are happy to have Red Forman back in That ‘90s Show and are mildly curious to see what Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg get up to with a new Darkwing Duck, there is one project that we would like to see actually happen: a television revival of Gattaca, the critically acclaimed 1997 science fiction thriller starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman. While the movie was commercially unsuccessful at the time (being beat by Jennifer Love Hewitt’s I Know What You Did Last Summer, of all things), culture has caught up with Gattaca enough that a serialized story can be told in its genetic dystopia.
Gattaca takes place in a near future in which eugenics has become standard practice in society, dividing the population into genetically enhanced “Valid” individuals and “In-Valid,” those conceived from natural childbirth. While officially, genetic discrimination is against the law, it is clear that profiling of those predisposed to genetic disorders is standard practice, creating a de facto caste system. Though the world of Gattaca looks like a glossy, retro-futuristic utopia, the more we see, the more it is clear that this is a dark, concerning vision of the future.
The actual plot of Gattaca involves Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), an In-Valid who has illegally adopted the indentity (and genetic profile) or a former Olympics swimmer (Jude Law) in order to pursue his dream of becoming an astronaut, a job off-limits to a genetic inferior like him. Hawke has been successfully escaping detection for years and will soon be part of Gattaca Aerospace Corporation’s mission to one of Saturn’s moons, only for the director of the company to be found murdered.
Although Ethan Hawke is innocent, a stray eyelash immediately puts suspicion on him, revealing that an In-Valid has infiltrated Gattaca; it is telling of the themes of the movie that it is just assumed by Valid society that an In-Valid is automatically capable of murder, even without evidence. Over the course of the movie, Hawke falls in love with Irene (Uma Thurman), a Valid who still suffers from a heart condition that puts her in the same career limbo as a non-genetically designed individual would, and has an uneasy friendship with Jude Law, a genetically perfect man who has essentially sold his own life to someone else rather than exist as the failure he sees himself as.
A television revival of Gattaca does not need to involve any of the characters from the original film; in many ways, the world of the film is the main character far more than Ethan Hawke. Throughout the movie, there are hints of how this dystopia has diverged from our own reality; concert pianists are genetically designed with extra fingers to play music impossible for In-Valids, while missions to other planets are, if not commonplace, far more advanced than our own. A series version of Gattaca could explore how the things taken for granted in that world still have unexpected effects.
Of course, Gattaca also acts as something of a neo-noir crime procedural, a genre that that will never, ever leave television. If there can be endless seasons of Law & Order on TV, there is really no reason why audiences could not be at least tempted by the idea of a chilling genetic dystopia as table-setting for murder mysteries.
The upcoming fourth season of True Detective shows that there is always an appetite for variations on philosophical, grim crime shows, and Gattaca could fit the bill for that easily. Prestige television has come a long way since 1997, as have budgets for science fiction shows. If Apple TV+ can take a gamble on a bizarre, retro-futuristic show like Severance and see it become a universally critically adored show, Gattaca surely has a place in the future of television.
Ethan Hawke has shown willingness these days to get into the TV game, so we also could see the return of Vincent Freeman, decades after his mission to Titan. A lot may have changed in the world of Gattaca and prestige television is the ideal place to see it play out.