Monday, January 8, 2007

Along for the ride with the Children of Men

I have this quick, shortcut way of deciding if a sci-fi film is probably good or not. This method doesn’t work as well with TV shows as they have smaller budgets, but with movies it’s usually spot on. Look at the cars. No, I’m not kidding. Look at the vehicles people are driving and riding in during the film. Do they look futuristic, but relatable? Are the buses and trucks something that could exist but also have wear and tear? Now, I’ll admit I don’t know jack about automobiles, but well designed cars demonstrate that the filmmakers have REALLY given a lot of thought about the look and impact of the world they’re creating rather than what would simply be cool. There is an immediate reaction that vehicles engender in an audience since everybody has some sort of experience with cars. Now, I’m not asking for the moon here. There are plenty of B-movie, sci-fi films that pass the ‘car’ test, Mad Max for one. I’m just asking for a little mindfulness in the automobiles, which often carries over to the rest of the movie. Of course if the film is set entirely in outer space you’ll have to look to something else, the plot maybe?

The positive buzz on Children of Men has been impossible to ignore, so I’m sure you know the general idea behind the film: it’s the year 2027, women are infertile, and it sucks to be alive at the twilight of the human race. So, how do the automobiles stand up in Children of Men? They’re fantastic. The vehicles in this latter-day, Orwellian dystopia pass the test. They’re grimy, dirty, and seem like future versions of modern cars we’re familiar with. They’ve got built-in computers, but are in desperate need of a repair parts. Functionality has won out over luxury except for the über-rich. Transportation is rather troublesome in this bleak future and the vehicles reflect this theme with caged windows and worn-out paint jobs. There’s a particularly hellish scene where illegal immigrants have a horrific bus ride that’s disturbingly memorable. One of the reasons being is the sense of entrapment the bus provides. Now don’t get the wrong idea, thinking that Children of Men has great car case scenes. This isn’t an action movie. It’s about society slipping into entropy, so sometimes the cars don’t start. On a personal note, I particularly liked the yellow station wagon-like vehicle driven by the hippy Jasper. It was groovy and futuristic all in one. I realize the cars are a small aspect of the overall production, but they figure prominently in important scenes. So, it’s nice that this gruesome depiction of the future gets the vehicles right.

Honk, if you feel the end is near. HOOOOONK, HOOOOONK.


Dean Wormer said...

Nice observation.

I think that's what killed Mad Max 3 for me- the dune buggies. The previous one had all manner of car, bus and motorcycle in it.

I think it's a good rule.

Don Snabulus said...

the little one thought it was interesting, but disturbing and had little more to say about it. It sounds like a worthy watch. The cars are a good "canary in the coal mine" so to speak.

Swinebread said...

Yeah, it may not always work, but often if I dislike the vehicles I dislike the movie. It is true the other way around as well. If I dislike the movie, I realize I dislike the vehicles as well. Minority Report is a good example. They spent lot of money on the cars in that movie and it still sucked and hate vehicles.

Overdroid said...

I liked Minority Report, but I also liked the vehicles in it, THEREFORE your syllogism holds true, but is subjective to the individual.

Swinebread said...

See, I think there is something to it.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Maybe that was true of Star Wars, too, but not necessarily with cars. In the first movie (Episode IV) Luke drove a beat-up, old landspeeder with a couple of mismatched parts and a missing cowl on one engine, and through the whole trilogy Han/Lando piloted a star-age equivalent of a souped up, old beater. In the second trilogy all the machines looked too saccharin perfect, even Anakin's "cobbled together" pod racer.

What does that tell you about Mr. Lucas' production?

Swinebread said...

You always think of a good shorthand for what I'm trying to say snabulus.

Seymour said...

Well the cars worked for me in 'Children of Men'. They were nasty little massproduced hybrid things, but what really sold me was the collison sensor which lit up whenever a vehicle came close to another. You only saw it as a reflection off the front window, which I thought was a cool.

I also liked the scrolling graphic boards on the double-decker buses.

I can't think of anything which reduced my enjoyment of that flick. It was awesome!

Swinebread said...

Seymour: Yeah, it's the little things that make it work.

There was a few times when I thought the camera was a little too shaky. They were non-combat/action scenes, but other than that excellent.