Sunday, January 28, 2007

Children of Men

So, what could possibly make me want to see a dystopian near-future sci-fi flick? (Who am I all know by now I'm addicted to sci-fi dystopias.) But hearken to this amazing and only slightly ironic endorsement from newly-wed mei mei Emily: "It made me want to have a baby."

Normally, I think attempts to make sci-fi movies are doomed to cheesy failure. This isn't sci-fi's fault, but the exceptions are few. Enemy Mine (1985), with Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr., is one of the few exceptions (I re-watched it while hanging out in WA this past week. It's still pretty awesome.) And this movie. I thought the portrayal of the near future (the 2020's) was visually realistic, and the technological flourishes were well-chosen and not too brash, except for maybe the scene at the dinner table with the virtual keyboarding, but that didn't bug me (it probably bugged Brent). But there are no big pointy shoulders in shiny clothing; what a relief to look into a future where people wear things still recognizable as clothing.

The basic premise, and I'm not giving away anything you don't pick up in the opening scenes of the movie, is that for some undiscovered reason, human beings have lost the ability to procreate. It's been roughly 20 years since the last baby was born, and the world is going to hell in a handbasket. What's the point of...well, anything, when there's no future to anticipate?

So of course, the plot unfolds around the figure of a pregnant girl. Unwed, marginal, and vulnerable, she is very much a Virgin Mary symbol (even makes a virgin birth joke before admitting she has no idea who the father is). And of course the baby is a baby Jesus figure, a concrete embodiment of restored hope for humanity. One interesting aspect of the story is the reversal of the assumption of the male gender of the baby, an assumption made by the mother and then later by a traitorous Judas character. That the baby is a girl underscores the break the baby represents from the violence presupposed in the worldview of the men in control of this anarchic future. The most arresting scene of the movie (despite the awesome moment where you get to see the baby come out, and let me say how excited I am that they included that, and also add, don't worry, it wasn't "gross") is the escape from the bombarded building: mother and baby and protector simply walk out, and as the soldiers hear the baby's cries and comprehend the significance of them, the fighting simply ceases...Until fired upon from afar, and then the frantic and ineffectual violence breaks out anew.

But for all that, the movie ends optimistically: Tomorrow really exists.

I cannot help but add one small pet-peevish criticism. I have no idea why, especially in a movie where the director was brave enough to give the audience a close-to-real birth moment, there would be no concern for continued verisimilitude regarding care. That poor baby went at least a whole night and a day without eating once. I was so concerned about this that I leaned over to Brent and hissed, "that baby needs to eat! why doesn't she feed her?" Is there some reason I don't know about that breastfeeding cannot even be hinted at in a movie? I know this is a small thing to pick on, but honestly. Wouldn't it be nice to have at least one movie remind us that breasts are not just pointless lumps of bodyfat that men (well, mostly men, I suppose) have arbitrarily decided to get off on? For myself, I had never regarded my breasts as anything but pointless, and if they had been any bigger I would have regarded them as pointless and annoying (friends not as lucky as me tell me that they really do have to wear awful way to have to live, in my opinion). Now, however, I am quite absurdly proud of them. I like them. I think they're beautiful. And they have a point (so to speak). I truly think this movie would be better if someone had thought of this and included a breastfeeding scene; it would have added to the feminist theme, the peace theme, the nurture theme, as well as reinforcing the point, first made visually and symbolically by the sight of the pregnant belly, that humanity's biology had been restored to rightness.


Anonymous said...

Breastfeeding notwithstanding, Kugelmass points out the apocalyptic in the movie is the right kind of apocalypse.

Anonymous said...

You know I loves me a good dystopian thriller.
Vast improvement over the book.

JTB said...

Thanks for the link, Hermit Greg. I found both articles fascinating and I'm very happy that there are more analytical pieces out there on the movie than mine (no strength or time left to really do it justice).

And Scott, thanks for the nudge to correct my typo/spelling error (I can't decide which it was--my vanity says typo but my conscience admits the possibility of misspelling) in "distopian"!

Anonymous said...

Pure typo. The "i" and "y" are way too close together on the keyboard.

mom23 said...

Just saying "YEA!" that you are still nursing that sweet girl and the picture cracks me up - I had forgotten about the aerobics kids do while enjoying a tasty meal!

priscilla said...

I am just happy to see Mila's hand-me-down clothes put to good use. The funny thing is that Mila wore exactly the same top today which was a hand-me-down from Trinity. Hehe. Welcome home. Come on over.

JTB said...

I think you could make the same comment about just about every pic we have of our darling child! If it weren't for you, we'd just have a gallery of naked baby pictures instead!

I'm planning on spontaneously popping in maybe Monday, lunchtime-ish. How about it?

jch said...

I've been avoiding this post b/c I hadn't seen the movie yet. Today I saw the movie. Loved it. However, I had the same reaction you did. I kept leaning over to Laura and saying, "She needs to feed that baby, dammit!"

BTW, finished season one of BG. I can't believe she shot him! I've got to get my hands on season two. You do have it, don't you?

JTB said...

I've got you you Season 2 for Season 1 this Sunday.