WARNING: IF YOU HAVEN'T YET SEEN CHILDREN OF MEN, THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW! I'LL LEAVE A BIT OF SPACE.
Last night, I finally got to see Children of Men. I've been wanting to see this for awhile, in no small part because I generally find Clive Owen interesting. I like his voice, too. A lot.
Alas, I was not terribly impressed, and this movie provides yet another example of why movie reviewers and I often don't see eye-to-eye. See, I don't care how visually impressive a movie is. I don't care about the great camera work or the lighting. I only notice if it's bad. I want a good story, and I also want to feel satisfied at the end.
Why didn't Children of Men work for me? Well, I'd have to say the "spoiler" in the trailer -- she's pregnant! -- didn't do a whole lot to add to the suspense. I mean, we knew going in that Clive Owen was supposed to help the pregnant girl get...somewhere. And it wasn't going to be easy.
My theory is, if you're going to divulge a key plot point in the trailer, for heaven's sake, put that plot point at the beginning. Otherwise, it seems like a long, long set-up to get to the surprise that's no surprise.
It was never clear to me just what fate might await the baby's mother and/or child if they were taken by the government. Was she going to be separated from her child? If she's nursing? Surely, given this is the future, they would be aware that nursing is good. Were they going to "study" them intensely and subject them to probes of many kinds to figure out why she could bear children? If so, this wasn't particularly clear. I could just as easily believe that yes, she'd be examined and samples taken (just like if you're pregnant now) but that they'd also be sheltered and coddled and treated with great care (especially considering the fate of the last "youngest person on the planet"). Given the alternative world of the film (grim does not begin to describe it), that cushy fate didn't seem so bad an alternative. Of course, you could compare it to a gilded cage, but if the alternative is a sewer? Gilding's looking mighty fine.
Speaking of alternatives, what the heck was The Human Project? What was it supposed to be? This was not at all clear to me -- and so I had no particular reason to believe going to them would be any better than taking a chance in Britain, especially when the "freedom fighters" turned out to have their own agenda for using the baby. Without any evidence, I simply couldn't believe that the folks at The Human Project were going to, without doubt, treat them better than the others.
I couldn't quite buy into the notion that the great disaster of no babies occurred so quickly. Over a decade, and so gradually that by the time people realized what was happening, it was too late to prevent? Yep. In a year? That's a stretch.
There was so little to explain the motivation of Clive Owens' character, and to me, this was a huge problem. He'd been a renegade, and then...not. Was it the death of his son that prompted the switch? But why? How and why did the death change his mindset? And what prompted him to decide to help the baby's mother? When he makes that decision, he doesn't yet know about the pregnancy. The only thing I really got was, "Just 'cause his ex-wife asked him to." So, like, he still loved her? I guess, since I wasn't given any other reason.
What the heck made the world go to hell in a hand basket? So they realized babies weren't being born and...let's riot? Let's just attack somebody? Wouldn't the smart folks be more prone to, I dunno, protect who's left, especially the younger ones? Wouldn't that tend to lessen the chances of conflict? Call me Polly-Anna (Hey, you're Polly-anna!) but without any background to explain the problems, I was left baffled.
I could have bought the premise of the story more if there were still some people who could have children (the haves) vs. those who couldn't (the have-nots) and especially if those have-nots were barren because of pollution caused by the businesses of the haves. OTOH, this is kind of a cliche, isn't it? But I just didn't understand why the world would go nuts without "the sound of children's voices."
And don't get me started on that babbling, possibly Gypsy woman with the dog.
One thing that was crystal clear was the comparison to xenophobic elements in today's society and the extremes to which it could lead. And this came down like a sledgehammer on the ol' cranium. I got it the first time, 'kay? Really. I'm not dense -- but I don't like to be scratching my head several times, either.
There's a line between intriguing and baffling to frustration. Writers face this all the time, especially at the beginning of a book. You want to tell enough so that the reader's curious, but you don't want to be so enigmatic they give up and think, "Nuts to this. I'm checking my email."
There was one moment of genuine surprise for me in this movie -- when Julianne Moore's character died. But I was shocked not because of that element of the story. I was surprised because she's a big-name actress, so I wasn't expecting her to be killed, and certainly not in the first half of the film.
In short, I won't be getting the DVD.