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HD DVD Review: Children of Men

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Children of Men has a lot going for it. Its post-apocalyptic world is fascinating, its detail is strong, performances on track, and some truly stunning visual moments are worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, the finer points seem to be some sort of in-joke, left to the writers or author of the book it’s based on. The audience is lost to any of the occurrences or why they’re happening, receiving (at best) the Cliff notes.

Children of Men then becomes a chase movie, one where people have apparently become so stupid they can’t see the proper means to protect the one woman who could save all of humanity. In this bleak future (is there any other?), humans can no longer breed, and Britain is the only country left with any sense of balance or power.

Why humans can no longer have children is unknown. Whether it’s a problem with women or men is unknown. What exactly caused a social meltdown in every other country isn’t exactly clear. The world doesn’t have children, so apparently that means go nuts, riot, and destroy what’s left of civilization instead of finding a reason for why this has happened. That is, as long as you don’t live in Britain.

Clive Owen leads the charge to protect one small miracle in this world – the one woman who is pregnant. To do so, he must reach a boat to help her find the “Human Project.” She is currently under guard from rebels.

Why she is pregnant as opposed to everyone else is never explained. Wouldn’t the father be just as important? What the human project is, why they exist, or why they’re so critical to the story, is never brought up. How the one potential mother on the planet came under guard of psychotic rebels is lost on the audience. In addition, animals are breeding as they are everywhere in this film.

These many problems make the technically strong film an utter mess of half-baked ideas. There are some truly stunning shots completed in one take, including a shoot-out near the end of the film that likely took more planning than the script. It’s an amazing accomplishment, showcasing dedication and the desire to create memorable images.

Astute viewers will notice the incredible care taken to craft this dystopian society. Backgrounds are filled with more notes and tips on the story than anything uttered by the main characters. This requires multiple viewings to grasp anything from it, and that bafflingly requires diverting attention from the main story.

Then again, there’s little to the main plotline. The goal is for the leads to find someone to protect them, without any reasonable explanation as to why the Human Project is any more trustworthy than everyone else. This is a mess of a story, baffling and confusing. It detracts from the main line which is a simplistic chase story with hardly any originality behind it. Children of Men is a below par pass with countless levels of untapped potential.

The HD DVD edition of the film is held in high regard by the videophile community, and rightfully so. The bright colors of certain opening scenes show the range available here, and the muted gray tones later are perfect. In terms of detail, you’ll never see better foliage than you will here. There is no aliasing or distortion, and small clothing details are astonishing in their depth. Black levels are flawless.

Bass provides quite a punch when called upon. Audio fans will be pleased to hear the sound field used effectively even when outside of heavy action. The film’s world is highly immersive, and when involved in the firefight late into the movie, everything comes together. Gunfire is stunning in its clarity and effectiveness in terms of surround speaker usage.

Extras are deep, though none discuss the back story of the film. This disc desperately needed a commentary. Possibility of Hope is half hour documentary on the themes in the film and their relation to real life. It’s quite deep, and those looking for something more than a typical making of will love this.

Three brief deleted scenes are little more than padding. A short featurette shows off the special effects of the birth sequence in a nice flowing piece that chronicles each pass of the CG. Philosopher Slavoj Zuzek digs excessively deep into the film for six minutes in a brief talking head feature.

Under Attack is an eight minute featurette on the long shots in the film, including the construction of an inventive rig around a car. Theo and Julian focuses on the two characters for five minutes. Futuristic Design discusses the sets and effects created for the film. Finally, some exclusive HD DVD U-Control features allows for the viewer to watch full commercials that characters see briefly in a picture-in-picture window (amongst other various features low on value).

While it’s nice to have a futuristic film without non-stop action and flying cars, there’s something about those movies that makes them work. The world is key, and without explanation, the world doesn’t work. Sadly, this grand opportunity for something different doesn’t capitalize on its potential.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • Ty

    Finally, someone else who thinks Children of Men is not a good movie. I too agree that it was a great sci-fi concept which 20 minutes in, degrades into a chase movie.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Great review, Matt. I also thought this film left far too much unexplained. This was a great concept that the filmmakers simply botched.