For some reason (he must have read somewhere that it was good, but I don't know where) my son has been pestering me to rent the 2006 dystopia movie Children of Men. I vaguely recalled that it had been well reviewed, even if a box office dud, so despite my general dislike of the dystopia genre, we watched it last night.
It is, by my reckoning, a deeply unpleasant film with nothing to recommend it. Well made, sure, but with no character to particularly care about, a pretty silly premise (it's 18 years since the last baby was born, and the world still doesn't have a clue as to what's going on? Come on - give science some credit. It's a scenario that could readily have a scientific explanation - after all, they have been working on the idea of genetically engineering viruses to make pest mammals infertile for some time. But apparently the director doesn't like movies that explain too much - hence virtually nothing in this film is explained properly.)
It did, though, confirm in my mind why it is that I can't take to the dystopia genre - with 1984 being my prime precedent. It's because they routinely fail to make how the world got there in any way plausible.
Sure, small individual countries with the breakdown of government and a reversion to tribalism (but armed with modern weaponry), or fanciful social experiment, can fall into dystopia for a time. But global dystopias where everything has collapsed, and/or all government has become authoritarian, and/or all happiness has been sucked out of the world, on an apparently permanent basis - now that takes some explaining. There's no true historical precedent, and, so often, these scenarios just show too many humans acting with no humanity. Dystopia novels or movies never get me over that plausibility line.
A fan of the genre could argue, I suppose, that plausibility is not their main point: it's the warnings they give about human nature, or the nature of power, or some such. But sorry, for me, that just doesn't cut it. Set your lesson in some example of a real temporary dystopia, if you will (I'm thinking The Last King of Scotland, for example), but why create a fake, implausible world?