I work with this young guy, he’s fresh out of college, maybe twenty-three-years old. He’s an engineering graduate and is well read and has a good classical grounding in literature and history. Good kid. Sometimes we talk about popular culture stuff. I can remember talking with him about the Matrix and saying there’s good and bad about it. I think I said it would have been better if Reeves weren’t the lead. And I think that’s when he recommended “Equilibrium.” Now I think I know what he was getting at.
So, Equilibrium is set in a dystopian future after World War III has devastated humanity. Mankind has decided that rather than chance another war, the root cause of war must be abolished. If I remember the chain of logic is war is caused by hate. Hate is an emotion. Therefore, eliminate emotion, eliminate war. So everyday every man woman and child self-inject with some kind of emotion deadening drug. And of course, it doesn’t just eliminate hate and anger. Love and happiness are extinguished too. Brilliant. Of course, it’s not explained why exactly they still want to live but whatever.
So just in case this premise isn’t bizarre enough, this society also has some kind of priest-like caste of ninja police whose job it is to hunt down and splatter anyone who doesn’t take his no-feelum medicine. And of course, the Ubermensch of ninjas and protagonist of the movie is Christian Bale. He is the most skilled proponent of the gun kata. This stylized dance-like routine allows him to (somehow) avoid the bullets of apparently any number of gun toting opponents while literally mowing them down like grass. The other mission of these holy stormtroopers is to root out any remaining pre-war artifacts that have emotional content. And once located, apply a flamethrower to these emotional touchstones. So, for instance, during one of Bale’s raids he somehow intuits that under a floor is the actual Mona Lisa. He gives the order and the barbecue crew incinerates Leonardo’s mischievous lady. So, what’s the problem? It turns out there’s a resistance! And it turns out Bale is not as emotionlessly happy as he could be. It seems his wife unbeknownst to him was a secret feeler. When she’s dragged away to be incinerated it seems to have left a mark. And we’re off. The rest of the movie is Bale going from emotionless executioner of the innocent to a guy who can’t let a puppy dog get shot.
Now let’s bring it back to my young co-worker who recommended this movie based on a comment about the Matrix. Well, stylistically this movie is extremely dependent on the Matrix template. Guns and swords abound and the wire work and fight scenes are very Matrix-esque. Even Bale’s priestly cassock is like Neo’s garb in the second and third movies. The emotionless police a level below the ninjas are close to the Matrix agents in appearance and behavior. The Resistance is equivalent to Zion in the Matrix. Without a doubt this movie is a reaction to the success of the Matrix. But interestingly the dystopia is a completely different science fiction catastrophe from the AI revolution and human battery future of the Matrix. What they share is humans fighting to be allowed to be actual humans.
What’s the verdict? Well, it’s derivative in a number of ways but it is well done and Christian Bale is a slightly better actor than Keanu Reeves and there is the puppy dog, so there is that. I don’t know. I’m not a big Matrix fan. So maybe I’m biased. But I can’t say I recommend it unreservedly. I will say if you really liked the Matrix you should give this a try. It has all kinds of hyperkinetic gun and sword battles. So, if that’s a big plus for you it’s definitely something to look at. That’s where I’ll leave this one.
Since my readers don’t always stop by every day I figured I’d paste this poll on each post for a while to see what folks call themselves. This is the post the poll came from Who Are We?
… And that got me thinking. Who are the people who read my blog? I thought it might be fun to see what the cross-section looked like. If you feel like saying what you believe in, feel free to leave a comment and/or pick a label from the poll below. I think it might be interesting.