In a 4.9 New Republic piece called “Will Hollywood Ever Make Another Children of Men?,” the answer is a simple “no.” Why? Because the apes have decided that theatres are CG funhouses, and that smarthouse, soul-stirring flicks are for streaming, and never the twain small meet.
The article is actually a chat between Alex Shepard and Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Fritz, author of “The Big Picture.” The book basically explains how it’s all turning to CG shit in theatres, but we’re actually in a golden age if you focus on non-theatrical.
Shepard: “2017 was an outstanding year for movies but it does seem like Oscar-bait movies are working on a smaller scale, for a smaller audience, in part because Hollywood has stopped investing in big budget Oscar-bait movies that aspire to a mass audience. In The Big Picture, you argue that three of my favorite recent movies — Michael Clayton, Captain Phillips and Children of Men — would have a much hard time getting made right now.”
Fritz: “That specialty market will certainly survive. If you live in a big enough city you’ll be able to see the next Ladybird in a few years. But most people won’t. They’ll see it on streaming or whatever. And that will be fine. But Children of Men, that’s a great example. I don’t know what it’s budget was — $80 million maybe. It’s not cheap to make that film. You’re making a film that’s really worth seeing on a big screen.
“But there’s no Children of Men cinematic universe. There’s no franchising. There are no tie-ins. There are no sequel possibilities. That’s a one-off film and that’s the type of thing that won’t get made anymore. It’s also the kind of thing that’s tough to replicate for a streaming service. It’s the kind of movie we’re losing and that’s a bummer.”
Bummer? For those of us who’ve been watching aspirational, high-craft, spiritual-deliverance movies in theatres for the last 30 or 40 years, this is a major cultural tragedy. It’s enough to make you think about getting into opioids, brah.
“Many critics were impressed by Children of Men‘s virtuosity and bravado,” writes Hollywood Reporter/Risky Biz blogger columnist Anne Thompson, “while industry types were seeing a downer film that’s going to lose money.
“The movie is a brilliant exercise in style, but it’s another grim dystopian look at our future — like Blade Runner or Fahrenheit 451 — that simply cost too much money.” “Wells to thoughtful industry types: (a) Yeah, it’s “grim” but, as you well know, only in a general milieu-ish way; (b) It’s mostly an action-driven chase movie, the story has a clear “maybe things aren’t so bad after all” theme, and the finale is all about relief, reverence and shelter from the storm; (c) When a movie is photographed with as much genius as Children of Men and is so thrillingly well-done, it can’t be called downerish unless you’re a total moron because the whole thing is so exhilarating to sit through.
“Going to Children of Men and calling it a ‘downer’ is like standing in front of Pablo Picasso‘s “Guernica” and complaining that it’s not colorful enough (i.e., Pablo painted it in grays, blacks and whites). “Thompson reports that Men cost between $72 and $90 million, which I’ll admit seems like a lot. ‘So what if it makes money or not?,’ she rhetorically asks. ‘It matters because we want smart, risky movies to return some cash so that the studios are encouraged to make more of them.
“One could look at this as the passion project that [director-cowriter] Alfonso Cuaron finally got to make after delivering a blockbuster like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” Thompson explained. “That’s how things work. He can afford a noble failure. The studios all want to be in business with him.”
“Who’s even thinking about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban today? And who isn’t fondly recalling and occasionally re-watching Children of Men?
Children of Men was easily the the most thrilling film of ’06, if for nothing else than those three uncut action takes that became instant classics.