Science Fiction films will inevitably fade from our movie theatres in the exact same fashion as the Western has. It saddens me greatly to admit this. Some of my absolute favorite films have come from the fantastical genre, such as Star Wars, The Matrix, The Fifth Element, Alien, Aliens, Gattaca, Terminator 2: Judgement Day and most recently Sunshine and Children of Men (two great sci-fi films that unfortunately fumbled at the box office). But perhaps my statement is premature. I hope it is. Maybe James Cameron’s Avatar will revive the genre and inspire audiences to be wowed again. Until then, however, we’ll have to endure “independent Science Fiction”, which is a collection of words that I have yet to fully absorb but have willingly embraced all the same.
One of the best of these independent Science Fiction films is Kurt Wimmer’s apocalyptic-thriller Equilibrium. The best Science Fiction movies didn’t solely consist of spaceships, explosions and galactic (I can’t believe I’m using that word) action, but rather challenging and thought-provoking ideas. Yes, the action is a plus but it isn’t what science fiction is about. Science Fiction is about encouraging people to think, which is where Equilibrium greatly excels. It forces the audience to be contemplative, to ponder relevant issues and think outside of convenient ideas.
The film centers on Preston, a Gammatron Cleric, who’s sole duty is to eradicate all forms of art and music or rather anything that could provoke emotion. After a devastating third world war, what’s left of humanity inhabits a large city called Libria, where any form of emotion is suppressed by a daily drug. Failure to inject the drug will result in execution via fire chamber. But when Preston decides not to take the drug, he immediately becomes entangled in a complicated plot that changes the repressed society forever.
Christian Bale is one of my favorite actors. Every performance he’s ever given has been dedicated and intensely serious. In any other actor’s hand, the film wouldn’t have been as effective. Bale’s performance is key to keeping this film together. As an audience member, we are essentially in his shoes and we need to be able to know what he’s thinking. There wasn’t a moment in the film where I couldn’t tell what was on his mind. His performance is excellent as usual.
The supporting cast is good but nothing to really rave about. Taye Diggs and Emily Watson do the best they can but their roles aren’t particularly strong. The same goes for Sean Bean, who plays this short role very well and to the best of his abilities.
Any attention that the film garnered was purely for the action sequences and rightfully so. One thing I did not expect from the action scenes was originality and it was the first time in a long time that my mouth dropped after watching an action scene. The reaction I had to the second time Preston was forced to use his guns was the same reaction I had when I watched Neo dodge bullets in the original Matrix. The action is simply very creative, such as the last fight scene that plays out more like a gun-sword fight and although it could’ve easily failed, it ends up working unbelievably well. Anyone looking for something new in their action will find it in this film.
Equilibrium isn’t perfect. The film has its flaws but ultimately is a terrific addition to the Science Fiction genre. It’s a thought-provoking action picture and one of the better recent Science Fiction films released.