August 28, 2010

Sweet Emotion

I am kicking myself right now! For my final paper for L&T, I had to write about something under the absurdly broad statement, "What makes us human?". I settled on how humans can feel emotion and things of that nature. It was a good topic, one of which there are plenty examples with which I could have used to back up my claim! So, why am I kicking myself? Well, because one of the best examples that I could have used made itself apparent to me after I turned it in. It's a film, set in a world, where emotion is outlawed, thus reducing the population to, more or less, zombies. It would have been perfect, but I couldn't use it! AGHGHGHGH!!! Equilibrium is an ingenious sci-fi actioner that poses good ideas and has awesome fights, but is marred by a shoddy script and some weak acting. It's not great, but it's not terrible either!

We'll still be using katanas in the future! May not be as practical, but it looks sweet!

It's the future; no exact year is given! The Third World War just ended and the winners, jaded by all the mayhem, have decided to put a stop to conflict! They determine that human emotion is the thing that causes war, so, the new world government starts the population on a drug to suppress it. All well and good, you might say, but you'd be wrong. There are a few sane people out in the world who, inexplicably, like being able to feel stuff, so they take it upon themselves to combat this new regime, effectively starting a civil war! Really counterproductive on the government's part, if you ask me, but, whatever! We'll roll with it. To deal with the resistance, the government trains Clerics, supremely badass law enforcers who are highly skilled in gun kata! The highest ranking of these Clerics, John Preston is exacting and ruthless. That is, until he stops taking his emotion suppressing drug. As his feelings start flooding back, Preston suddenly finds himself fighting the same government that he was so blindly protecting!

Ok, first off, let's get the obvious out of the way! This movie is a total rip-off of 1984, V For Vendetta, and pretty much every other fascist regime flick in history! Everything about it, from the look of the city and civilians, to faceless and brutal police force, is ripped straight from the pages of Orwell's book! Hell, the leader of the government goes by the name Father! Yeesh!

It's a standard plot, with some good ideas and progression, but it's not handled as well as it could be. You easily buy into Preston's arc, but that's about it! The bad guys are inexplicably bad; the good guys are inexplicably good! Not much motivation is thrown in there! It is enough to get you from A to B, and, thankfully, A and B are not always balls to wall action scenes. More on the that later. 

Christian Bale is Preston! Since this film came out in 2002, we had yet to see him in anything high profile. This is three whole years before Batman Begins put him on the map for real! That being said, the makings of a star are showing through here! Bale has that rugged handsomeness that all action heroes need to posses, and his now famous gruffness and seriousness is used here to great effect! His is the best character, not surprisingly, and he handles it well!

Taye Diggs is Brandt, Preston's partner, who is apparently unaware of the fact that Preston is now laying off the juice! As the main(ish) antagonist, Diggs has neither the screen presence or menace to be a legitimately villain! This could be the whole "lack of emotion" aspect of the story coming through, but even so. Diggs doesn't have the intimidating qualities that a performance of this sort requires.

The last main role falls to Emily Watson as a "sense offender" who Preston develops a sort of relationship with! It's a pretty powerful performance, and Watson brings a fiery energy to the screen. She's just not used enough! When she's on screen, the screen crackles and pops with her fierceness! When she is not, her absence is uncomfortably noticeable!

Sean Bean shows up briefly as Preston's old partner, and Angus MacFayden is a constant presence as the man in charge of the Clerics. Performances are alright! Bale and Watson are great, but everyone else falters or just isn't on screen enough to make an impression!

Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!

Equilibrium is the brain child of Kurt Wimmer, who wrote and directed! First, he should be commended for making an action movie with characters more content to talk rather than fight! Despite the coolness of the action, there isn't a lot! The final set piece is only about six minutes long! Wimmer has made the best kind of action movie, one with ideas! The concepts posed in Equilibrium, that emotion leads to war, the cost of losing emotion, and other things that would have helped my paper immensely are all well handled, prompting you to actually do some thinking during the run time!

That being said, there's plenty of cool action to be had! You know how, in action movies, bullets never seem to hit the main guy? Well, that's the case with Equilibrium, but, this time, there is a good explanation! In this world, Clerics are highly experience in gun kata, a.k.a. gun fu! Basically, it's marital arts, with desert eagles, and it looks awesome! The action scenes, however short and far between they are, are spectacular! You can't help but get a thrill when you see Bale jump into the middle of a crowd of faceless police men and proceed to smoothly and effortlessly gun them all down! 

There are a slew of unsavory things that taint Equilibrium, however! For starters, the script! Holy God, it sucks!! There are wonderful ideas and really cool concepts being thrown into the mix, but the script is nowhere near capable of handling them sufficiently! No one really has anything interesting to say! There are plenty plot holes, including one that will leave you scratching your head and backing up the movie to make sure you didn't see something different! It comes at a crucial point in the plot, and is positively infuriating! There are a few more, though not as aggravating as that one! You'll know when you see it! The acting is weak in areas, as has already been stated!

All things considered though, Equilibrium is worth a look! Go for the ideas, concepts, and badass gun fight! Be prepared for a weak script and shoddy acting! It's not perfect, but it is more then enough to keep you glued to your seat for a solid two hours! Oh, and a guy gets his face cut off by a samurai sword! What more do you want?

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