Since Children of Men was released on DVD, I picked it up and got to see it again. It’s a fantastic movie, just as good the second time around… I recommend it, and will try to avoid any spoilers when discussing it below.One thing we’ve talked about around the office is how game-y the script was. I’m not saying it in the sense sense that “boy, a Children of Men game would rock” (I’m not even sure it would), but rather that its method of storytelling was extremely well-suited to games…. It was simple, yet very powerful.
Game developers have struggled over the entire existence of video games to integrate deep stories into their gameplay… To an outside observer, it seems easy to demand that they “just hire a writer to create a story that doesn’t suck”. However, even with the most brilliant writer, it can be extremely difficult to get the player immersed in your fiction. Because of sporadic playing habits and limited attention spans, over the years I’ve seen subtlety whittled away from many scripts out of necessity. Unfortunately, as a result, characters with extreme depth and subtle motivations tend to give way to ham-fisted dialogue and characters that wear their hearts on their sleeves. For example, Japanese games that are renowned for great story is full of characters that puke up their deepest desires at the slightest provocation, and even very good stories like Final Fantasy XII is still delivered with very plain statements of motive.
In the case of Children of Men, a story was delivered where:
1) The viewer didn’t need to track more than the very next objective at any one time.
2) The backstory was explained in snippets over the course of the main story.
3) The characters’ motivations were never more than 1-2 layers deep.
4) The characters’ progression was primarily driven by geographic advancement (e.g. “we must go here”).
5) Very moving story moments were created simply by placing the characters in an interesting place and letting the viewer’s imagination do the rest.
I am actually heartened that the method of storytelling was this simple, yet it had some of the most moving scenes I’d seen in quite a while. If anything, it’s proof that a compelling situation will create drama on its own. Did anyone think the story in that movie was too simple?