Believability wears thin in Equilibrium. Review by Violet Kane

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On paper, science fiction dystopian film Equilibrium has everything going for it—a cast of known and respectable actors, great aesthetics, excellent effects and martial arts choreography—but a profusion of clichés make this film generally predictable and uninspiring.

Equilibrium introduces us to a dystopia where world war on Earth has spurred society to take action against the fundamental cause of war—human emotion. Ubiquitous audio and visual broadcasts alert people when to inject an emotion-dulling drug on schedule. A caste of warrior priests has arisen to enforce regulations against literature, art, music, film and other mementos of emotion, setting them aflame and capturing their purveyors. Armed with elite skills in gunfire and other fighting techniques, these priestly police face little serious opposition. Everything changes one day for the foremost member of this warrior caste when, because of happenstance, he misses his dose of the anti-emotion drug. As the drug wears off and emotion emerges, he sees his world differently and decides to stop taking the dose, overwhelmed by the new emotions he experiences. Now something of a "double agent" in the dystopian hierarchy, he searches out those who resist the numbing regulations, living "off the dose" in secret enclaves, and he discovers a plot to tear down the hierarchy once and for all.

If the premise of this film doesn't already ring some bells, then you probably haven't read many of the dystopian classics of science fiction. The ban on humanistic creativity is a very clear stone's throw away from the book burnings of Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. It's almost a bad joke to say that if only the main character of this film had read 1984 instead of burning it, he could have foreseen the eleventh hour twist when he goes to assassinate the analogous "big brother" character. Dystopian clichés aside, the believability of this film is further injured by its basic premise—the film asks audiences to believe that a man who has never experienced emotion of any depth and does not live among people who experience emotion will naturally experience the full range of human emotion upon cessation of the drug. What, no learning curve? Call me crazy, but I know a good many people who don't cry at classical music, let alone the first piece they've ever heard; and are we to believe that a man who's never had a pet and who has been raised in a culture where dogs are considered to be street vermin will melt at the first meeting of a puppy? I suppose if you can forgive the dystopian clichés and if you're on the same side of this film's apparently firm stance on nature vs. nurture... wait—before you decide that this is the film for you, be advised that this film is not a discriminating opportunist when it comes to clichés. The martial arts choreography combined with the costuming will smack most any contemporary movie fan with its Matrix aesthetic. To give credit where credit is due, the culminating gunfight is both unique and visually stunning—but that only makes me question why the filmmakers didn't strive to lose the Matrix aesthetic earlier on.

All told, this film certainly has its measure of entertainment value, but audiences don't have to be discerning film critics to see where cliché surpasses homage in this film.

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Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.

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