I decided to re-write this review of Equilibrium since I thought my original wasn't that good, so here's a better review.
I'm extremely puzzled as to why this atrocious Kurt Wimmer film has now become a sacrosanct moving picture, to where any criticism on it is met with some of the most vicious down-voting and imbecilic commentary that's only rivaled by really snotty anime fans. Don't let this movie's jejune fanbase fool you, Equilibrium is NOT a masterpiece, but rather an extremely derivative piece of hack film-making made to appeal only either to those that don't know the foundations of good film-making or those that somehow think concepts in philosophy and politics override the proper mechanics of film-making.
The story to Equilibrium is that after World War 3, the leaders of the world decided that it was human emotion that was the cause of war and created a society called Libria, where human emotions are phased out of peoples' lives through a mandatory drug called Prozium. Naturally, pockets of resistance form up in this society and with the aid of a totalitarian police force, people known as Grammaton clerics use an art called Gun Kata to shoot out all enemies without much effort. However, a high-ranking cleric named John Preston (Christian Bale), forgets to take a dose of Prozium and after feeling emotions, is starting to reject the beliefs of Libria.
I'll be honest here and say that none of the characters in Equilibrium gripped me at any point. I get that most of the characters are supposed to be devoid of emotion and personality due to the movie's setting, but for the characters that do show emotion and personality (like Preston), they're really hokey and cliché. A good example would be Vice-Council DuPont, since he's almost like a villain taken right out of a Saturday morning cartoon's interpretation of a Stalinist dictatorship. Preston's change into a “normal person” was goofy and his scenes with him being emotional almost made me laugh in how goofy and forced they were.
It's also worth noting that the dialogue in this movie is HORRIBLE. There's plenty of lines that try way too hard to sound poetic and meaningful, but are also marred with Matrix-esque cheese that further decimates any chance this movie could be taken seriously.
LACK OF TENSION/ACTION SCENES
Any action film fan worth their salt will tell you that one of the most important things to have in an action or thriller film is tension. The best and most common way to achieve this is to make the protagonist put fourth a ton of effort to defeat his or her enemies. Think of Kyle Reese from The Terminator and John McClane from Die Hard as good examples of protagonists using creativity and “fighting for your life” effort in their attacks against the bad guys.
John Preston, on the other hand, is quite possibly the most boring protagonist in an action movie. He's so overpowered that he doesn't have to use a single shred of creativity or effort to defeat his foes.
Now this is where the action scenes come in. Simply put, they're some of the most boring you'll ever see. This is so because aside from Preston being too powerful to pique any interest from the viewer, so many of the enemies he fights don't put fourth a shred of effort in their attempts to take down Preston. It's like they're lining up to get killed by this guy, and this makes for extremely boring action. Some may say that the action scenes look amazing because of how well-staged they are, but this is one of their biggest faults because even in the context of a dystopian sci-fi flick, they look too absurd since the enemies are practically letting Preston kill all of them (other than the obligatory “boss battles” near the end).
Among the worst examples of the plentifully bland action scenes has to be near the end. Preston confronts the group of government troops guarding DuPont's office, and in the midst of him annihilating them, there's this really goofy move Preston does where he throws two gun magazines with balancers on them across the room and when his guns run out of ammo, he sticks his guns on the balanced magazines on the floor and continues fighting.
Perhaps if Equilibrium were an over-the-top action movie not meant to be taken seriously like Commando, then seeing an overpowered hero blast away the opposition without effort could have been mindless fun, but Equilibrium takes itself way, way too seriously.
TRYING WAY TOO HARD TO BE “DEEP”
Oh boy, this movie tries way, way too hard to be emotional, deep, and symbolic, and I rolled my eyes throughout these scenes. I was angrily groaning in the scene were Mary O'Brian (Emily Watson) was interrogated by Preston, and she was going on about how “life without feeling is like a clock ticking.” I wrote better dialogue when I was in the ninth grade, and it didn't help that Watson's acting was a total bore. Eventually, Watson's character gets incinerated because she's a “sense offender” (the label given to anyone charged with feeling emotions), and there's a scene with Preston crying over it, and I just said “Really?” Wimmer also resorts to the government killing puppies as cheap means to make the audience hate the bad guys even more. It's absurd that Wimmer has us see the resistance fighters get gunned down by government troops but not of the puppies. Scenes like those are more fitting for a Lifetime movie than a serious sci-fi/action film, as they totally reek of the most base attempts at emotional appeal from the audience.
Then there's the overuse of symbolism, and they're about as subtle as an Amtrak barreling into a Greyhound bus full of circus clowns at 100 mph. Between the scenes with Preston tearing off the filter on his window to see the rainbow after a rainstorm and him changing from a black trench-coat to a white one near the end, it's like either Kurt Wimmer doesn't know what the word “subtle” means or if he assumes the audience is too stupid to notice things unless if they're right in their faces. The painfully obvious and overdone nature of the symbolism scenes makes this more fitting on the SyFy channel.
LACK OF ORIGINALITY
Equilibrium is one of the most unoriginal movies I've ever seen. It's like Kurt Wimmer decided to take ideas and visual styles from The Matrix (which is just a bland mixture of cyberpunk anime and Hong Kong action movies), THX-1138, Fahrenheit 451, and 1984. You get the premise of emotional suppression from THX-1138, the totalitarian censorship of Fahrenheit 451, the absurd action scenes and guys in trench-coats in The Matrix, and the “one world order” of 1984.
I have to laugh that according to this movie, the cause of war is human emotion. Wimmer must have the intelligence and maturity of a sixth grader because any adult will tell you that there's so much more that goes into the causes of war and the “evils” of the human condition in general than just emotion. Anyone with enough intelligence will tell you that other things that cause war are clashing religious and political beliefs, natural resources, and money. The overly childish nature of this premise would be more forgivable if this were a movie geared exclusively for kids, but because this is an R-rated film, this gross oversimplification is like a hammer to the face of anyone with a shred of intelligence.
LOGIC VS EMOTION
As someone who knows that logical appeal is far more important than emotional appeal in just about anything, I was totally disgusted by the execution of this movie.
Equilibrium has plenty of logical flaws, such as the fact that everyone is forced into being emotionless through taking Prozium, yet there's plenty of scenes of government troops and of DuPont showing a lot of emotion when either enraged or put in a tough spot. Also, when Preston starts to feel emotion, wouldn't he do things differently than his previous partner (whom he executed for having emotion) did when he started to “feel” so he wouldn't get caught?
Also, with the heavy-handed message about how emotion is so important, it leaves no room for the logical element of human existence playing any importance of society. Even going along with the premise that emotions cause war (I'm still snickering at how stupid this is), in which the hokey prologue says that mankind couldn't survive another world war, it doesn't bother with the question of the ends justifying the means (which is in this case, keeping everyone doped up on Prozium). It doesn't let you ponder about that for yourself as you're forced into hating the emotional suppression done by the government. Also, if people not taking Prozium develops into a problem to where the government needs frequent raids and executions of resistance members, wouldn't the government develop a more efficient way of preventing subversion, such as installing computer chips into people when they're born to make them emotionless? It's clear that all Wimmer cares about is emotional appeal rather than logical appeal, and people like this are rock-stupid.
I honestly don't remember anything of this movie's score, so I can't comment much on it. Though if I totally forgot about it, then it probably wasn't worth remembering.
Equilibrium tries way too hard to be deep, emotional, and action-packed, and it fails hard on all three categories.
Despite the rabid praises Equilibrium is receiving from people around the internet, this movie is a total dearth of cinematic quality in any area. I'm not joking, Future War, a movie made fun of by Mystery Science Theater 3000, is marginally better than this. At least that movie had hilarious riffing commentary by the crew aboard the Satellite of Love, whereas no comedic riffing could save Equilibrium.
Stick with these movies instead:
Total Recall (1990 version)
The Terminator (1 and 2)
Ghost in the Shell
Avoid Equilibrium at all costs.
What did you think of this review?