Children of Men (HD DVD)

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I’ve never really been too big of a fan of the whole “world gone mad” post-apocalyptic theme in some movies. Maybe it’s that I don’t want to think that we as a society will end up that way or maybe I just want to see happier things on screen. Movies about the future are often bleak and depict society in a dilapidated and run down state. Granted, no one can predict what will happen but this theme seems to be fairly commonplace. “Children of Men” takes that theme and adds another twist, which is actually quite intriguing. What if the human race was incapable of having children? It’s a novel concept, actually. Think of all we’ve accomplished as a society, from the wheel to landing astronauts on the moon. Things take time and people get older and it’s only because we’re able to reproduce, that we keep advancing and making forward progress as a culture. Supposing women no longer had the ability to become pregnant, it’s scary to think that the human race would be all but extinct in one hundred years. A scary thought, no?

It’s the year 2027 and London is the only major city on the face of the Earth that’s managed to avoid imploding. All of the other major countries and cities have been devastated by war and apocalypse. The citizens of London are a lucky bunch as all of the immigrants are horded into cages and left for dead. The government rations out pain medication and a suicide pill, should you not feel the need to continue with your life anymore. Theo (Clive Owen) works at a meaningless job, is a borderline alcoholic and is still distraught over the loss of his son, some two decades earlier. He’s contacted by his ex-wife, Julian (Julianne Moore) to help a young woman find sanctuary. This is no ordinary woman though. Kee (Claire Hope-Ashitey) is pregnant – the first woman in nearly two decades. Theo, with the help of his friend Jasper (Michael Caine, hamming it up for all its worth) must help Kee not only for her, but as a sign of hope for the human race. Will they be able to accomplish their goal?

“Children of Men” was pretty much unanimously hailed as one of the best movies of 2006. The director, Alfonso Cuaron, is probably best-known for his 2001 film “Y tu mama tambien” and with his efforts here, he’ll no doubt continue to be in demand. One of the most talked about things of this movie was the way it was shot, hand held cameras and extremely long tracking shots. I always compare some of these shots to that of Martin Scorsese in “GoodFellas” and though some might not appreciate a six minute long take, it’s quite a feat. “Children of Men” might not be for everyone. The underlying theme is one of hope and perseverance, but in between are plenty of negative examples of what the human race might evolve into. Still, for a thought-provoking and eye opening movie, “Children of Men” certainly fits the bill.

Video: How does it look?

Let me preface this video portion of the review by saying that I have received multiple emails concerning the playback of this HD DVD in a Microsoft Xbox HD DVD drive. I have one of these drives myself and use it for my reviews of HD DVD movies and I had the same experience that a lot of other people have had. Quite simply, the disc says it cannot be read. I did manage to play with it enough that I watched about 2/3 of the movie in HD DVD but it locked up and I was forced to turn the movie over (to the standard DVD side) and finish it up on my Blu-ray player. How’s that for irony? I did, however, see enough of the film in HD to give an accurate score on how it looks. The 1.85:1 VC-1 HD transfer looks pretty darn good. There are a few specs of grain here and there, but considering there are about three shots with natural daylight in the film, I was impressed. The movie has a very clean look and feel, which is odd considering the physical nature of the movie. Flesh tones seemed a bit washed out, but then again it’s not a fault of the transfer but rather the makeup and lighting. Detail was especially crisp, something I noticed immediately when I was forced to watch the rest of the movie on the standard DVD side. All things considered, watching the movie was a pain but hopefully Universal gets this ironed out and we can all enjoy the movie in HD on the first try.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is a bit subdued at times and a bit robust at others. There’s a bomb explosion in the first scene of the film and it makes for one of the film’s better instances of sound. Jasper’s home has a surround sound system and his choice of music is, shall we say, eccentric. I heard it all in perfect clarity emanating from all 5.1 channels. Dialogue is very warm and natural, though I find the British accents a bit hard to decipher at times – still, it’s not a fault of the soundtrack. On the whole, “Children of Men” is good, but not great when it comes to sound but it more than serves its purpose here.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Supplements-wise, we’re getting a pretty good sampling of what the film has to offer. There are some very rough deleted scenes, which were cut for continuity and the physical quality of these is so harsh, it really adds to how good the final product really looks. Next up are some featurettes: “The Possibility of Hope” takes a look at the nature of the film and how certain it might be. The documentary was directed by Cuaron who also directed the movie, obviously. Next up is “Under Attack” which focuses on some of the long takes that I mentioned above. This is a pretty interesting feature in that a special car was even used to lower the actors when the camera panned. I had no idea the preparation that was involved and this gives me a new appreciation for these scenes. Next is “Theo and Julia” with interviews with Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Cuaron who talk of their roles and working with Cuaron. The “Futuristic Design” piece is interesting as well, as we see how they tried to create the world of 2027 with advertisements, computer screens and technology that’s 20 years down the road. Lastly, “Creating the Baby” is a look at how the baby in the movie was created and I have to say they did a good job because I had no idea that the baby was CGI until I took a look at this.

Lastly, this disc features Universal’s “U-Control” feature exclusive to HD DVD discs. You can listen to some tidbits here and there and watch full versions of the commercials featured in the film. Ironically enough, I’ve only had a few other instances in which I’ve had a problem with a disc not playing and all have been discs with the “U-Control” feature. Coincidence?

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