HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Childhood's End
HTS Overall Score:77
It’s been years since I’ve read Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End”, but it was one of my childhood novels being that I was a sci-fi nut. I didn’t take it very well when I was younger, as “hard” sci-fi was something I wasn’t nearly as interested in as much as pulp sci-fi. Lasers and blasters and Aliens oh my, were more to my tastes. Still, once I got older I appreciated the hard line science fiction that deals with more existential issues as a means to a message rather than just to watch the main hero save the girl and blow up the space ships in the process. While I always loved that genre, “Childhood’s End” is a controversial book that took a very fatalistic look at life, religion and basically our whole existence that works as an alternative look on life. Sadly it’s not nearly as entertaining or as enjoyable, especially as I’ve gotten older and realize how depressed and hopeless Clarke’s life must have been in his creation of this novel (one that firmly encompasses his view on life sadly). The reimagining of his work over 63 years later is entertaining and ultimately existential-lite, but unfortunately the same sense of fatalistic sadness is attached to the story which hampers my enjoyment just a bit combined with a few deviations from the book.
The year is 2016 and humanity is about to change forever. While the world is living just as they thought they always would, dozens and dozens of winged space ships appear over major cities (“Independence Day” actually copied this technique which is why it may seem familiar) and settle overhead. All flying devices are landed immediately and the people of Earth wait in fear. That wait is short lived as the beings (nicknamed “Overlords” by media mogul Wainright (Colm Meaney) ) and their message of peace comes down the pipe. It seems that the Overlords mean no harm and they are here to usher in a golden age for mankind. Wars stop, famine stops, and everything becomes just …..peaceful.
This is not achieved overnight though, as the Overlords refuse to show their faces and instead use a single human, Ricky Stormgren (Mike Vogel) as the ambassador. However as tensions fall down, humanity starts to feel more at peace with the situation, and falls into an era completely though unachievable until now. Keeping the same 3 part narrative as the book, we have a second chapter where we skip ahead years and find out the children under the overlord’s guidance are no starting to display seemingly supernatural powers and are changing ever so slightly. This turn of events sparks off a certain controversy among the people and tensions start running high as the people begin to question the intentions of the alien overlords. A society is created by an offshoot of humans on the planet who title their mecca “New Athens’ in an attempt to live outside of alien rule, but you can’t stop the inevitable.
The third act gets as fantastical and sci-fi like as anything you can image, shooting scientist Milo (Osy Ikhile) across the galaxy as he goes back with the alien overlords to their home planet in order to see what no human has seen. If you’ve read the book then you will see how tame the film’s representation is of the universe outside Earth. The novel even has the narrator refuse to give description to many things as it was described as too incomprehensible for human eyes. Instead we have to make do with the basics of sci fi as we see the inside of their massive ships, a fire and brimstone like home planet for the Overlords and a “Halo” like interpretation of the Overmind. Ahhhhhhhhhh yes, the Overmind. This is the real crux of the entire series right here. It has been revealed about an hour earlier, but the Overlords are no master race controlling the universe. In fact they are nothing but a species that are the go betweens for the Overmind, a giant universe spanning consciousness that is the essence of spiritual life in the entire verse. The Overmind is basically their version of God, much like in “2001”. A consciousness that is made up of living entities for billions and billions of years, one that is expanded upon anytime a new species is able to evolve enough to join the hive mind. This is where humanity comes into play. We’ve reached the end of our usefulness and the Overmind has sent the Overlords to groom us and get out evolutionary process in line so that our children will be able to join the Overmind while the rest of humanity fades. In essence that’s the real message of the book and the series. There is no god, there is no meaning, there is nothing besides living and breathing. Some people need the trappings of religion or hope, or food, or some form of comfort that gets them through the night. The Overlords message is to shrug it off and just accept the fact that you will one day fade off into nothingness, while your child may evolve to become part of something different. It’s a horribly fatalistic and hopeless look on life, but it is one that Arthur C. Clarke firmly believed on (he was a vehement atheist to his dying day).
Having read the book many years ago I was innately curious on how the novel was going to translate to the big screen. People have wanted to bring the novel to celluloid many many times, but the CGI has never been up to snuff to properly do all of the intricacies that are involved in Clarke’s work. However the young and untested cast for the miniseries kept me nervous as they all felt a bit too “pretty” if you know what I mean. Still, they did a great job with the material at hand, with Charles Dance as the Overlord Karellen being the most memorable. Colm Meaney and Julian McMahon make honorable mention as the more seasoned of the cast, but the young generation is surprisingly adept at playing the part of confused humans.
As much as I like the hard sci-fi of Clarke and his incredible imagination, “Childhood’s End” has always been a film that haunts me as bleak and sadly flawed. Coming from a background of faith it’s interesting to see how a person who sees no future or meaning in life besides just BEING views the world. It’s sad and pitiable at the same time, but still shows the imagination and ingenuity of the human mind. His incredible imagination was able to come up with so many variables and differences in the universe that it contrasts starkly with his heavy handed message of giving up faith, giving up everything but just BEING. The miniseries sadly does not touch on as many important issues as the book does, and Clarke’s big bombshells feel neutered compared to how they were when I read them, so as much fun as the show is, it sadly is a bit neutered in comparison.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=66610[/img]Since there’s only a couple of hours of content per disc, “Childhood’s End” looks simply spectacular on Blu-ray, given a wonderfully detailed encode that meshes well with glossy futuristic look of the show. Fine detail is amazing, and being a SyFy show I was really expecting some nasty looking CGI. Instead it blends rather well with the live action shots, and doesn’t soften the image very much at all. Bright blues and silvers and other primaries pop nicely in the futuristic society, and the black levels stay strong throughout. The only issue that I could find was some intermittent banding that would show up here and there, mainly in the darker sequences. It’s a fantastic looking image and one that certainly doesn’t look cheap like many a SyFy production is prone to. Excellent job.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=66618[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track isn’t as dynamic as the glossy video would have you believe, but it is a solid runner for the show. Dialog is never in any question, and well balanced with the random effects of the show. There’s a lot of activity in all channels, as the series plays to all of the sci-fi tropes like humming ships and gunshots during the famed kidnapping of Ricky, or the rush of traffic in New York. The LFE can come in some serious waves of power such as the Overlord ships landing or the rush as Milo is awakened from his 40 year sleep. It’s never as dynamic and encompassing as some other shows, but it does the job nicely and for a more cerebral science fiction show, it is certainly understandable.
• Extended Scenes
• Deleted Scenes
The SyFy channel is not known for much anything of substance usually, but they have been coming out with some very solid shows the last couple of years. “Childhood’s End” is probably the most adult show they have produced yet and it is a major deviation from their normal “fluffy” shows. Being a miniseries probably helped, but their attention to detail and the obvious budget applied to the miniseries is rather refreshing. I enjoyed this contemporary walk down memory lane but sadly the message is one that I’d rather be buried back in the days of 1950’s science fiction than be embraced in a modern era. The video and audio are just as excellent as one would expect from a modern show, but sadly the extras are a bit light. They are impressive as the scenes spell out very clearly what Clarke was trying to say in the book, but there is a distinct lack of heavy duty in depth behind the scenes type material that would have been very fascinating if done correctly. I would have to say this qualifies as a good rental for those interested in a more hardline look at science fiction.
Starring: Colm Meaney, Julian McMahon, Mike Vogel, Osy Ikhile
Director: Nick Hurran
Writers: Arthur C. Clarke (Novel), Matthew Graham
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 246 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 1st, 2016
Buy Childhood's End Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Solid Rental
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