Equilibrium (2002), or Fahrenheit 2002

4 11 2009

Well, geez. I don’t really know what to say. I was all ready to give today’s feature another chance. I remember seeing Equilibrium back in ’03 and thinking to myself, “Yuck! What a self-assured piece of pseudo-sci-fi! Never again!” But back then, I was also a dumb, clunky high-schooler who thought that the most intellectual modern author was Kurt Vonnegut and the best look for myself was slicked-back long hair, Hawaiian shirts, and military boots, so I thought maybe I’d look past my former confused persona and discover for myself just what makes this little-seen Matrix clone tick. Unfortunately, it seemed that I was more astute in my youth that I had previously anticipated, and the movie left me with a bad taste in my mouth yet again. This time, however, I can more eloquently express why. Let me set the stage for you.

It’s THE FUTURE!!! In a futuristic city-state named Libria, society has banned the citizens’ paltry, idiotic use of emotions. By prescribing all citizens with an emotion-damping drug, banning all emotionally-stimulating media and art, and intimidating rebellion with a small cadre of Clerics, fiercely devoted soldiers trained to snuff out emotion and serve the government, the ruthless patriarch of Libria, known as Father, has complete control over the fate of his subjects. Libria’s top Cleric, blandly-named John Preston, is devoted to the cause and has no remorse for the things he has done to people who had the audacity to feel. But, after a series of random accidents that impede his usual emotion-blocking ways, he begins to see things in a different light. He begins to feel, against all odds, and when he looks around himself and sees the totalitarian government he’s helping to support, he sees that a change must take place. He decides that he must become a member of his long-despised enemies, the Resistance. They seek to topple Father and let emotions free again, but skilled warriors such as him have pushed them to the brink. Can Preston, now awakened from his long emotion-less nightmare, end the tyranny and oppression of the order he fought so long for? Will his superiors in the government be able to contain what has awoken in their most dangerous agent?

If you like a lot of action, this might be a film for you. If you like a lot of highly dramatic (or overly dramatic) sci-fi that feels more like a John Woo film than anything else, this might be a film for you. If you ‘re having a dinner party and need an extra coaster, this might be a film for you. Otherwise, toss this movie on the ground and be on your way. Equilibrium is what would happen if the Wachowski brothers were huge Ray Bradbury fans; it’s a deformed baby of The Matrix and Farenheit 451 that is just too silly to be taken as seriously as it wants to be. It’s overly loud and unflinchingly stupid, and while director Kurt Wimmer deserves a modicum of credit for having the balls to create a fighting style called, no-joke, Gun Kata (!!!!!), but the fact that even that is taken ultra-serious really puts a damper on this dour little sci-fi flick.

That’s right, I said Gun Kata, and I wasn’t making an obscure reference to my penis. This is how people fight in THE FUTURE! They calculate the probability (very quickly, I assume) that a target will move into their line of fire, thereby increasing their accuracy ten-fold. It’s something that I’m sure most experienced shooters in THE PRESENT do nowadays anyway, but they needed a catchy slang word for their somewhat derivative martial arts hybrid style, so Gun Kata it is! How about Pistol Fu? Or how about Krav Ma-Glock? Or how about it’s just kind of embarrassing?

I wasn’t joking when I said that Equilibrium is a disgusting bastard child between Bradbury and Wachowski that can only be called either Kurt Wimmer or Bradchowski. Wimmer, if one takes the time to look at his career, has amazing scope, and can plot out visuals with a flair that can best be called impressive. Unfortunately, these visuals are stacked up around a bullshit story, like marble columns on a Port-o-potty. There’s no originality here. Everything in this film has already been done; not only before, but to death. The ideas presented of a totalitarian state enforcing a thought police are nothing new, the concept of a dystopia ravaged by war but rebuilt for a hefty price is a little stale, and I mean it with every fiber of my being when I say that the fighting and mindless action on display here could have come from any movie in the late 90s or early 00s. It’s not fresh in any capacity; the sharp gray and blue tones Wimmer uses only magnifies the dullness that sets in not long after the film begins.

Remember unassuming Christian Bale? Before he was an A-lister who yelled at people for getting in the shot, he was primarily a go-to guy for the more intrepid Hollywood projects. Well here, as the go-to guy, I feel honestly a little bad that he put so much into this only to receive nothing back. He is full-on 100% committed to this project as John “Get Me A More Interesting Name Than This” Preston, the super Black-Ops guy of the future. You can tell he was really sold on the idea of making a big-budget movie with a message, and he really does a fine job. His Gun Kata (HA!) is actually pretty cool in that Neo-esque way, and I find myself aligned with him closest during the scenes when he rediscovers his emotions again. Very good work. Taye Diggs plays Brandt, Preston’s disgruntled new partner. Not bad, but Taye Diggs seems to have some emotional blinders on here, because I feel like he was grossly off the mark for this character. I like Diggs, but I think altogether he missed his mark here. Emily Watson plays a key member of the Resistance, Mary. What a hottie!!! Watson, for me, is one of those gals I have a problem being objective with. She’s just the kind of celebrity that I like, and if I had to get intimate with a cold, lifeless sex hole of a celebrity, it would probably be Watson’s. And I mean that in the most respectful way imaginable. Aside from her looks, she brings a little to the table. She’s very plucky, and if you’re a member of a Resistance group in a movie, that’s pretty much a requirement. I like her here, and I can’t really imagine anyone else doing it. Also, keep an eye out in the beginning for Sean Bean, who plays Preston’s old partner, Partridge. It’s a bit part, as usual. This man always looks like he needs another job, so if you’re listening, Hollywood, give Sean Bean a chance in the States. You won’t regret it.

Equilibrium came out in the wrong time and place for it to be a success, and it came out at a time when perhaps the audience they were going for was just not there. Or maybe it was the fact that it wasn’t a very good movie. Whatever the reason, Equilibrium is slowly falling away to movie obscurity. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, I would catch it before it gets hard to find. Otherwise, everyone else should stay away from this one. It just doesn’t matter much. It doesn’t have the weight of importance or at the least a spattering of enjoyment to distract from the banality of this too-slick dystopian sci-fi. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s worth three strikes against it right there. I give Equilibrium 4 Bradchowskis out of 10!

Tomorrow I watch Falling Down as per request. Until then!!!