In a world that is increasingly shifting towards artificial intelligence-controlled conveniences, what if the process of giving birth in humans could also be helped with such revolutionary technology? The science fiction romantic drama film The Pod Generation is an exploration of this very question as we watch a couple, Rachel and Alvy, go through the experience of childbirth but with the help of a detachable AI-controlled womb. Although The Pod Generation is quite intriguing and exciting in certain parts, an overall lack of emotional effect and a sudden switch of style in the end make it just an average watch.
Plot Summary: What is the Film About?
Set in the near future in New York City, The Pod Generation begins with the protagonist, Rachel, having a soothing dream in which she sees herself pregnant. Her reality is quite different, though, as the woman does not actually have the time to go through the hassles of pregnancy even though she and her husband Alvy are interested in becoming parents. The world that they live in is heavily affected by artificial intelligence technology, from personal AI voice assistants that actively set one’s daily schedule to artificial nature pods installed inside homes to negate the need for actual time spent in nature. Rachel is a hardworking and successful employee at a leading tech company named Pegazus, and she soon receives a promotion for her efforts. As part of the promotion, the HR manager informs Rachel that the company would be willing to financially support the expensive process of childbirth for her in case she wishes to make use of the extraordinary Womb Center company.
This is a great opportunity for Rachel, especially since she is soon contacted by the Womb Center, informing that she has successfully made it through the waitlist for using their revolutionary artificial womb pods. As a professional woman who hardly has the time to go through the natural labors of childbirth, Rachel wants to grab this chance with both hands. But the only problem is her husband, Alvy, who still prefers his life to be natural and without the intervention of any technology. As Rachel eventually signs up to go have a meeting with the Womb Center representatives, she also thinks of ways to inform Alvy of this big decision and somehow bring him on board.
What Is The Womb Center, And What Is Their Work?
Based on the information provided throughout The Pod Generation, the Womb Center is a cutting-edge research facility in the United States, owned and run by the tech corporate firm Pegazus. According to the CEO of the company, who often makes an appearance in TV interviews, his intention behind acquiring and supporting the Womb Center was to counter the alarming drop in birth rates all over the world. Because of the extremely tiring and demanding strain that giving birth brings, both physically and mentally, fewer couples are opting to have babies, and the world’s population is reaching an unwanted stagnancy. In order to make the situation easier for couples, especially women, the Womb Center designed a flawless new technology that could be used to rear a human embryo inside a detachable remote womb.
The detachable womb is basically like a big egg-shaped chamber inside which the conditions and vitals of a human womb are artificially replicated. Taking the reproductive cells from the parents, an embryo is first formed in a natural process, but in the laboratory, and the embryo is then placed inside the detachable womb. The baby then continues to grow inside this womb, and the artificial pod is mostly kept at the Womb Center facility. The parents are allowed to visit and also take the pod home for a selective time period in order to grow their bond with the children before childbirth. Feeding and other forms of nurturing also take place technologically, as prepared food has to be placed in a tray that directly connects with the pod. A software app is used to make the baby hear certain sounds or go through certain experiences, all of which have been researched and proven to be good for the development of an embryo. To a certain degree, the concept of genetic mutation also seems to be hinted at since babies can be treated against diseases of their parents from a very early stage as an embryo.
Along with the pains and labors of childbirth, the high expenses of giving birth to a baby are not directly mentioned. This is because the corporates at Womb Center and Pegazus do not want to stress about it since their technology costs much more than the natural procedure. Like most other corporations in such sci-fi films showing the near future, Pegazus is also concerned with only mentioning principles that would support their financial cause. The company preaches its feminist ideals of letting women free of the labors of childbirth, but in reality, they do not care for any such principles. They also enjoy the fact that being able to get access to their artificial womb pods has become a class statement in these times, which allows them to charge even more money and then conveniently change up their rules and agreements.
Why Does Alvy’s Opinion About The Pod Gradually Change?
For the most part of The Pod Generation, the couple Rachel and Alvy are mostly at odds with each other, especially over their personal beliefs about the dependence on technology. Working at the tech corporate company, Rachel is obviously more used to life around technology, to the point that she constantly avoids even the fake and artificial nature pods in order to give more time to her work. Therefore, she is not averse to the idea of giving birth with the help of the detached womb pod at all, and like her work colleague, she perhaps feels grateful for the fact that technology like this exists. On the other hand, Alvy has totally different beliefs, which is obvious from the man’s profession and lifestyle as well. In a world where breakfast and other foods are synthetically produced through technology resembling 3D printing, Alvy is a botanist who harps on the need to connect with nature.
Alvy does not like spending time in the nature pods and instead dearly holds on to a house that he owns in the suburbs only because it is far away from all the maddening technology of the city. He spends his mornings tending to real plants and trees by giving them real soil and water, which has become increasingly rare in the world. As a professor of botany, the man teaches all his students to have physical and emotional connections with nature, especially trees and is rather bewildered by the fact that teenagers of the time fear eating a fig after plucking it from a tree since they are not used to such acts. Therefore, it is also quite obvious that a man with such beliefs would be extremely against the use of detachable wombs to give birth to his child.
After first learning of Rachel’s signing up for the Womb Center program, Alvy is in disbelief that his wife would get enrolled to have a baby without discussing it with him. More than the lack of understanding between them, though, the exact process of childbirth worries Alvy even more. The man is always a supporter of everything that is natural, and so the evolutionary process of women giving birth is something that he does not want to play around with. He is also extremely questioning of the various processes involved with rearing their baby inside the egg-shaped artificial womb and is overall against it. None of Rachel’s friends, who have gone through the same process or the woman’s AI therapist, can convince Alvy to agree to the procedure. However, the man also dearly loves his wife and realizes how much it means to her to have a baby. It is only to support Rachel’s wish that Alvy agrees to have the baby using the pod.
Once the initial stages are done, and the embryo starts to develop inside the pod, Alvy remains extremely skeptical about the process. He is not very helpful when Rachel first brings the pod home, and he is easily spooked by the emergency alerts that it sometimes sends. But with time, his demeanor and perception of the pod start to change. This is perhaps all the more so because of Rachel’s changing attitude since the woman starts to grow distant from the process. Rachel starts to have strange dreams and nightmares, which are seemingly all part of the process, and the need to constantly tend to the needs of the pod gets to her. Thus, when she leaves for work, it is Alvy who spends most of his time with the pod, and he eventually starts to see it as his child rather than any unnatural abomination. Once Alvy is alone with the pod, he starts wearing it around his waist and also goes to the point of carrying it to work. It is not like the man completely loses his earlier beliefs and opinions, for it is suggested that he still fights for having real trees in his botany class when the superior talks of using cheaper holograms instead. But Alvy grows warm and caring towards the pod because he starts seeing it as his child.
The Pod Generation seems to shake up gender roles and ideas around them as well, for Alvy initially does say or do things that are perhaps reminiscent of men. He feels awkward seeing other fathers carry around the pods, but once he starts experiencing parenthood, the man himself carries the womb in his front. But on the other side, Rachel is also affected by this in a negative manner, as she gradually starts to lose touch with the embryo and hence starts to question how her husband is managing it so well. Rachel also tries to bond more with it by taking it to work but is instead told not to do so by her superiors. This, once again, reveals the hypocritical nature of the corporate company. It is now Rachel who starts to question the legitimacy of the program and even has to be taken to the AI therapist in order to understand the situation better.
What Happens To Rachel, Alvy, And Their Child?
Towards the end of The Pod Generation, the film seems to go through subtle shifts of tone, as it initially seems like it is going to be a science fiction thriller. This is because Rachel and Alvy increasingly grow distrustful of the Womb Center company. The company also changed up its agreement terms owing to the growing list of couples wanting to use its service. Therefore, they now want to give birth to the babies in just 39 weeks’ time and empty the pods so that they can be used for the next couple. Rachel and Alvy grow cautious of this, fearing that this might hurt their baby, and they instead want to keep the pod at home and give birth by themselves.
When the Womb Center representative does not approve of this plan, Alvy steals the pod from the place and brings it back to their house. Knowing that the company would come in search of their pod, the couple now leave their New York residence and move to the Shell Island house, which does not have any modern AI technology built. When the time of the child’s birth comes, the couple realizes that the Womb Center has remotely pulled off support, making it dangerous for the baby inside, but the fact that it is very close to birth saves the day. Ultimately, Alvy carefully breaks open the pod and brings out the baby, in a sense, giving birth just like a doctor.
Instead of having any science-fiction twists and turns, The Pod Generation‘s ending takes a dramatic route and ultimately tells the story of two loving parents in changing AI-driven times. Alvy and Rachel decide to stay at their Shell Island house, away from their busy lives and technology, and raise their child amidst nature. Rachel also packs up the broken artificial pod and mails it, seemingly back to the Womb Center company, since there is no more use for it. The film also features a mid-credits scene in which the CEO of Pegazus is seen in a TV interview, making bewildering claims that the company intends to allow babies to choose their parents in the future. Not only does this claim sound gimmicky, but it is also extremely dangerous, as Pegazus might choose to implement AI more directly on human embryos in order to make them evolve faster than normal.