Monday, January 8, 2007

Children of Men

My wife and I saw Children of Men tonight. If you haven't seen the trailer, watch it. I've been looking forward to this movie since I first saw the trailer a few months ago and it didn't disappoint. It was the perfect use of film science fiction.

Too often in movies, science fiction is an easy out, or an attractive special effect. Hollywood too often makes it shallow, or escapist, or dressed-up fantasy (Star Wars, I'm looking at you.) There have been a few films recently that have used it to its most effective purpose: metaphor and meaningful speculation. Another film that recently used SF to this higher end was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In Eternal, there is only a drop of science fiction in it, the technology used in order to erase memories, but only this small drop enables the film to delve into a broader message about relationships and the barriers we put up between ourselves and the ones we love.

In that regard Children of Men did exactly that. By supposing simply that humankind is suddenly no longer able to reproduce, a whole world of metaphor opens up about survival and what procreation means in the grand scheme of our lives. ***SPOILERS***There is a great personal story here as well, as Theo (Clive Owen) learns to overcome the death of his son by trying to bring the first new life in almost twenty years into a bleak, hopeless world.***/SPOILERS***

The action was fantastic, and even more importantly, believable. For science fiction to truly do its metaphorical job, a writer or director can't be sloppy about the real-life details. The action scenes had the gritty, on-the-ground feel that made Saving Private Ryan so effective and the movie keeps its own pace, never rushing to get to the next explosion. There was nothing unreal or laughingly unlikely about it, which is something most SF fails utterly at -- which is why few SF films will pull you in like Children of Men does.

All and all, it's a crime that this film will ultimately be overlooked by everyone. But at least it was made and I got to watch it, which is good enough for me.

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