Childhood’s End: Fearing a Loss of Identity

The SyFy three day extravaganza which retells the Arthur C. Clarke novel Childhood’s End is finally over. While there are a few changes in the source material, aka liberties taken, the true message remains, after all is said and done mankind’s biggest fear is loss of identity.

Childhood's End - Season 1

The SyFy three day extravaganza which  retells  the Arthur C. Clarke novel Childhood’s End is finally over.  While there are  a few changes in the source material,  aka liberties taken, the true message remains, after all is said and done mankind’s biggest fear is loss of identity.  There are other fears mixed in with the tale of the Overlords; specifically Kerellen (Charles Dance) helping the denizens of earth to reach the next stage of their evolution. 

Interspersed throughout the entire three day small screen version of the Clarke classic are the themes of: There is no God, our children are not our own, there is no heaven, hell or even purgatory and in the end, there is only energy and that is neither good or bad; it just is.  The whole shooting-match is powered not by some benevolent and caring “big guy” but a sort of hive mind intelligence that is pure energy.

Perhaps the most disturbing message is that when we die, despite what several different religions believe, people just cease to exist. There is no place that their ephemeral being transports to, the loss of identity, self and individual energy just dissipates. As the grown up Milo (Osy Ikhile) asks Kerellen at the end, “Does any part of Rachel (Charlotte Nicdao) still exist?” The Overlord’s answer devastates the scientist:

“Only in you.”

In many ways, Clarke’s 1953 novel can be seen as an almost religious themed tale of aliens usurping mankind’s “modern” version of mythology. As early man created “Gods” to answer questions of why, so too did later, more “educated” man “create” a story of one all powerful creator who knew all and rewarded those who believe. While it may seem trite to allude to “our maker” as mythology, in Clarke’s world (of the novel) that is essentially what the “big guy” turns out to be; a myth.

When the devout believers realize this new truth they self destruct, suicide is the end for at least two of the “main” characters who continue to believe that God exists and will help mankind to survive this external threat.

The first installment has Missouri farmer Ricky Stormgren (Under the Dome star Mike Vogel) come into contact with the emissary of the Overlords while his partner Ellie (Daisy Betts, The Player, Chicago Fire) worries about a lot of things apart from this new development.  Colm Meaney plays Wainwright the insufferable head of a large newspaper who is the first human to aggressively question and challenge  the Overlords.  

Childhood's End - Season 1
Daisy Betts, Mike Vogel.

Ricky is the mouthpiece of the aliens. “Spokesperson” Kerellen who the world does not see until the second installment of the short three part series uses the farmer to explain what is going on and what will happen. . As the alien tells Stormgren, people are not yet ready to take in his visage. After seeing that the alien looks like an Old Testament version of the Devil, things begin to click into place.

The slow conditioning  of mankind where all, but a small population (in the US at least),  accept the fearsome appearance of Kerellen. Mankind enjoys decades of peace, tranquility and world rule under one organization. (It is this theme that mimics what can be found in the bible where the “end of days” scenario fits fairly well. Peretta Jones (Yael Stone) circles “False Prophet” when Stormgren begins to speak for Kerellen.)

As the tale progresses we are introduced to other players from Clarke’s book and more changes.  Ricky is dying and at last the meaning, as promised by the dead Annabelle, of the room at the Four Seasons is made clear.  New children are born, and they all are interconnected with their central conduit being Jennifer Greggson (played with a direct and disturbing grown up quality evocative of young Dakota Fanning by newcomer Rory Bochner).

There is at least one moment of incongruity. Young Milo, is shot dead by a drug dealer when the wheelchair-bound lad intervenes in a transaction gone sour between the man and his mother.  The Overlords “heal” the boy, not only bringing him back from the dead but he now can walk.  Of course later, the youngster with the insatiable thirst for knowledge will fight the “loss of science.” (Another allegory which relates directly to religion.) Milo is the only human to be directly affected by the Overlords who survives to the end, everyone else dies before the end.

By the time the third act ends, mankind is gone; with only The Lark Ascending melody as a single memory of man and earth. Kerellen has the final line where he tells his “assistant” after being asked what will they do with the tune:

“Leave it here for whoever passes through, so they can hear it.”

Childhood’s End is a depressing tale. Whether going back to the author’s source novel or watching the SyFy adaptation, it ends on a sad note. Milo, the last man standing, as it were, watches  Jennifer (who has not aged one whit in over 85 years) drain all the energy from the planet and its surroundings while channeling it up to the Overmind (which is God in the sense that it is all powerful but lacks the rage (Old Testament) and compassion  (New Testament) of the big fella.

Perhaps Milo himself best sums up the message of the entire saga of the death of mankind and the loss of identity.

“I miss cookie dough ice cream. You ever have it? It’s, like, the first time you try it, you’re all like, “How have I lived so long without this in my life?” You ever come across a civilization with cookie dough ice cream?”

“No.”

“We did that.”

The death of man in this verse is natural because evolution is also natural. It seems somehow fitting that the music Kerellen leaves behind in the void left by Earth is The Lark Ascending, a melody that evokes so many emotions; love, joy, sadness and most importantly, hope.  (Amongst others.)

Childhood’s End tells us that in the end, it may all boil down to an emotionally moving tune or a type of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream that sets mankind and humanity apart from the rest of “other worlds”.  It also tells us the truth, that we only live on in our children, small parts of ourselves that will outgrow and leave us.

These same children who will evolve far beyond what we have accomplished and who may never remember where it all began. Ergo the real fear of humanity, a loss, not of mankind’s identity as a whole, but our own personal one.

 

Under the Dome Season Two Opener Stephen King Cameo Stamp of Approval *May Contain Spoilers*

Under the Dome Season Two Opener Stephen King Cameo Stamp of Approval *May Contain Spoilers*

The season two opener of Under the Dome has a Stephen King cameo that seems to show the author’s stamp of approval for the direction the show is heading. If that wasn’t proof enough that the writer likes the way things are progressing in Chester’s Mill, a behind the scenes clip, has King enthusiastically talking about how much fun he is having revisiting the denizens of the small dome enclosed community.

Under the Dome: Binge Watching for Season Two Premiere

Under the Dome: Binge Watching for Season Two Premiere

Quite possibly the best thing to come out of multiple streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon is the ability to binge watch programs to prepare for a new season, like Under the Dome and season two which will premiere on Monday June 30. Netflix is perhaps more attuned to this new pastime than Amazon but the second site is catching up fast.

Stephen King’s Under the Dome Mini-series starts Monday.

Stephen King’s Under the Dome Mini-series starts Monday.

Open Graves (2009): Sizzling Dushku

Open_Graves

Directed by Álvaro de Armiñán and written by the Father/son duo of Roderick and Bruce A. Taylor Open Graves is like Jumanji on PCP or alternatively for grown-ups.

There’s nothing new here on offer. An old board game that “magically’ comes alive to inflict horrible deaths on the losers and maybe give the winner their ultimate wish. Sort of like Jumanji on acid or PCP.

One complaint about the film on IMDb was that, “The board game was created in 1465 Spain, so how come all the directions and cards are in English?” Fair point I suppose, but if the game is magic doesn’t it stand to reason that if English-speaking folks play it, the game switches to…oh…say, English? So if Spaniards or some French folks start to play, then the cards and directions would be in Spanish and/or French, respectively.

Just a thought.

I will openly admit to liking the film. Mainly because it features the sexy, sultry, and sizzling hot Eliza Dushku (who was obviously on break from the 2009 telly series Dollhouse) who plays the love interest in the film. But the lovely Eliza had a little competition from actress Naike Rivelli  who, if they ever film Ava Gardener’s life story could play The Barefoot Contessa quite easily, she could be Ava’s twin.

The male “love interest” is Mike Vogel whom you might recognise from Cloverfield. He makes a pretty fair romantic match for Dushku’s character.

The film opens with scenes of torture. A lot of nude women being cut, maimed, burnt, et al; all in the pursuit of proving their innocence or guilt in the area of witchcraft. All this murder and mayhem before the opening credits. The end result of all this “Witchfinder General” type activity results in one of these unfortunates being found guilty of witchcraft.

The lady in question, one Mamba by name, is skinned alive for her poor career choice and her skin and organs are used to make a “cursed” game. Somewhat similar to  the board game in Jumanji,  cards are drawn that state (in rather morbid prose) what the player’s fate will be after their “token” lands on a certain space.

It is now “present day” and a group of twenty-somethings are on holiday in Spain. Jason (Vogel) and his mate Tomàs (Ethan Rains) are at the beach when Jason notices Tomàs chatting up a gorgeous beach babe (Dushku) whose name is Erica. Jason is immediately smitten and Erica reciprocates the emotion.

These two lovebirds decide to play a game that Jason has found called (appropriately enough) Mamba. Erica seems to know an awful lot about the game and the two of them talk the rest of the gang into playing.

The end result is that the losers die gruesome deaths not long after getting bumped off the board. Jason and Erica must complete the game in order to save their friends.

Despite the low score on IMDb (4.0 if you’re interested) I thought the film was pretty enjoyable. The pacing was good, the effects impressive and the story, while not blazingly original, did not insult the audiences intelligence too much and there was a good old sense of urgency to the groups survival.

I’d love to go into the films “nuts and bolts” a bit more but that would be skirting dangerously near spoiler territory and I don’t want to go there.

The film is available on Netflix at the moment, which is where I saw it (on UK Netflix) and it was worth the time spent to watch it. So pop yourself some popcorn, prepare a big glass of your favourite beverage and sit down to enjoy this ‘board’ game adventure, you won’t get ‘bored’ I promise.

And on a sad note; Film critic Roger Ebert passed away today and while I quite often did not agree with his views on film, I will miss his often acerbic possessions on films and can only wonder what he would have made of this film. If I’m correct, I don’t think he would have thought too much about its relevance or value. I guarantee though, that he would have stated his views vociferously and scathingly as only he could.

RIP Roger Ebert (B: 1942 – D: 2013)

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