Children of Men marks the beginning of a post 2001: A Space Odyssey era of science fiction. Kubrick’s 1968 classic is, and has been, one of best pieces of work that exist in the world of cinema. Its visual aesthetics have helped create the accepted elements of the science fiction genre. The production design and visual style of the film have been copied and imitated in countless science fiction films. Watching 2001: A Space Odyssey was a very special experience, partly because audiences had never been exposed to its unique elements before; however, since its release theatres have been filled with other movies attempting to recapture the magic of Kubrick’s film. This has made the genre appear to be somewhat tired, since so much of it has been populated with similar science fiction models.
Luckily, Alfonso Cuarón was not bound by any of the elements that people normally associate with the science fiction genre. Children of Men established a vision of the future that is much more like the present than some futuristic time. Instead of using broad stylistic aesthetics in production design to create an impression of the future, Children of Men stayed close to how things look today. The biggest difference between Cuarón’s film, and the modern world, is that Cuarón’s world is quickly running out of time. He didn’t need to use futuristic fashion or architecture to convince the audience watching his film that they were watching something taking place years from now. Cuarón brought the emotional journey of his characters into current consciousness by emphasizing their everyday familiarity.
Cuarón teamed up with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki once again as they created Children of Men. Together they added to the modern feel of the movie. They instilled a sense of immediacy to the film by shooting it in a documentary style. Cuarón and Lubezki avoided traditional quick-cut conventions in favor of abnormally long takes. By shooting in this style, the filmmakers were able to harvest the randomness of life. This is not to say that the details of the production were not planned thoroughly, but that certain elements in the film only exist because of the limited amount of edits. During one pivotal moment in Children of Men, blood spatters on the lens of camera. This adds to the intensity of the scene and was by all accounts a happy accident. Cuarón could have used a different take of the scene in the film, but he chose to be flexible instead and did not limit himself to his preconceived plans for the film. Life is never quite like we imagine, and Cuarón knows this.
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Clive Owen plays Theo Faron, a protagonist with characteristics comparable to the heroes of Homer’s ancient epics. Like Odysseus, Theo succeeds because of his luck and cunning. Early in Children of Men there is an image with an extremely low depth of field, in which Owen’s bare feet are the only part of the frame in focus. At this moment an important detail is established. The film continues to follow Faron as he is thrown into increasingly challenging series of events. There are many factors that could stop Faron from continuing his journey, but they don’t. He experiences doubt, but is never deterred. Faron is compelled by destiny. His relationship with Julianne Moore’s character, Julian, propels Theo into a fight to save the human species.
Somewhere along the way others try to use the state of the world for their own agendas. The principal conflict in this future is a struggles for power. This invades the space of the characters often as they try and pursue their goals. This conflict acts as the background for all action that takes place in the film. Women have stopped producing babies with the exception of one woman. Clare-Hope Ashitey plays Kee. She is the first woman to become pregnant in eighteen years. The film acts as a warning of sorts. People in Cuarón’s world are so busy fighting amongst themselves that that they risk the very existence of the human race. Theo is the protector that avoids civil war and focuses on the end goal. There is one moment towards the end of Children of Men when the battle for power pauses ….for just a moment. This one of my favorite scenes, the battle begins almost as quickly as it ends.
An unbelievable series of events occur and transform Theo. He starts as the classic reluctant hero and becomes so much more. Children of Men should be a modern classic. While it may not have been embraced at the Academy Awards, Children of Men is easily one of the most textured films of the decade. Avatar may be the most recent science fiction film that has attracted the most mainstream audience; however, Children of Men is everything that Avatar is not. In Children of Men special effects are only used to augment the story. There is a birth in the film that is seamless. Children of Men is about the story and the characters. Techniques used in the film are impressive; however, when you get to the crux of why Children of Men is a film of the decade, it’s Cuarón storytelling that stands out.
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- David Kirkeby, “Films of the Decade – 2. Children of Men.” Point Of View Reviews- Movie reviews by DW Kirkeby, and more, from ClassBrain's Movies in the Classroom. 6 March 2017, 13:47 UTC. . 26 Sep 2017 <http://pointofviewreviews.com/films-of-the-decade-2-children-of-men/>.
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- David Kirkeby, “Films of the Decade – 2. Children of Men.” Point Of View Reviews- Movie reviews by DW Kirkeby, and more, from ClassBrain's Movies in the Classroom, http://pointofviewreviews.com/films-of-the-decade-2-children-of-men/ [accessed September 26, 2017].