Revisiting Children of Men

Dayo Olopade, on the coming dystopia:

Mohan Munasinghe, reporting for Britain's intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), thinks reports of our civilization's demise have been greatly underexaggerated. According to the substance of a talk Munasinghe gave recently at Cambridge, we are headed for an ugly, dystopian future driven by resource shortages and overpopulation that will produce devastating competition and in all likelihood, more walls and more wars. "Climate change is, or could be, the additional factor which will exacerbate the existing problems of poverty, environmental degradation, social polarisation and terrorism and it could lead to a very chaotic situation," he says. (See the rawkin' Children of Men for more on how "chaotic" that could look.) [emphasese mine - RD]

This is a hobbyhorse of mine, but as my previous forays on the subject are either behind the NR subscriber wall or lost in TNR's vanished archives, let me try the patience of my readers by noting that Olopade has inadvertently put her finger on the problem with Alfonso Cuaron's adaptation. The film's hellish, quasi-totalitarian dystopia does indeed feel like a compelling vision of a future dominated by "resource shortages and overpopulation"; unfortunately, the whole frickin' point of the story is that it's set in a world where women stopped being able to have children about twenty years back. Cuaron's vision channels doomsayers like Mohan Munasinghe to impressive and riveting effect, but unlike the dystopian vision in the film's source material, it more or less wastes its supposed premise in the process.