If you were to put George Orwell’s 1984, The Matrix, and Minority Report sprinkled with a hint of Gattaca, your end product would look something like Equilibrium. Kurt Wimmer’s dystopian science fiction movie is definitely a mash up of other science fiction and that leaves a question to be answered: Is Equilibrium an homage to classic science fiction, or is blatantly ripping others off. Either way you look at it, there is a lot of fun to be had with this movie, even though I can’t see it being put on anyone’s list of best science fiction films of all time.
John Preston (Christian Bale) is a Grammaton Cleric, whose main job is to find and exterminate “sense offenders.” What is a sense offender? Well, after World War III, a new drug called Prozium was created which blocks any sort of emotion, and soon became mandatory. Sense offenders are the few that decide it is not the right way to live. One day, Preston accidentally breaks the vial holding his Prozium and begins to feel emotion. An even bigger problem is that he really enjoys it. An even worse problem is that he is the most revered Grammaton Cleric. He immediately begins questioning his government and his own role in rounding up people who desire a life full of emotion, which sturs up suspicion with his partner Brandt (Taye Diggs).
The first thing that I need to talk about is the outstanding style that Wimmer has packed Equilibrium with. The cinematography by Academy Award winner Dion Bebee is out of this world. The future is dark and ominous with splashes of hard light that makes for awesome looking action scenes. And speaking of action, Wimmer created a style of gunfighting/martial arts called Gun Kata, which is reminiscent to the style of fighting seen in The Matrix, but with its own original twist to it. The scenes featuring Gun Kata are absolutely awesome and memorably shot.
Style aside, the story of Equilibrium really isn’t anything spectacular. Like I said before, it is very reminiscent of an Orwellian future that has been seen countless times. The inability to feel and lack of human emotion is a favorite for dystopian science fiction authors and film makers, although it isn’t quite as overt as it is in Equilibrium. Looking at this movie as an homage to older science fiction, it certainly does its job well. If you were to look at it as a lazy piece of writing, than it’s pretty glaring. This forces the viewer to take it as they will, and this will highly affect your opinion on the movie. Personally, I feel like there’s too much creativity in other parts of the movie to make it lazy enough to be a rip off.
Unfortunately, this movie does suffer from style over substance. Many people heavily compare this movie to The Matrix, which is rightfully so. From the clothes to the Gun Kata, there are certain similarities, but The Matrix doesn’t suffer from style over substance. Part of what makes The Matrix such a classic is the Wachowski’s abilities to make it heavily stylized but deep in every other possible way. Equilibrium looks nice, but it doesn;t really make the viewer think too hard, which is important for science fiction.
Taking two hours out of your day to watch Equilibrium is something that I would recommend. It isn’t going to be a classic science fiction film, nor is it a thought provoking trip into a possible future, but it does promise a lot of fun. The action is top notch and the movie itself is gorgeous to look at. Give it a watch before you judge it. It’s pretty fun.