Equilibrium is mostly known for being a Matrix rip-off. Released in 2002 it was hard to deny the many similarities between the two; people in long leather coats doing karate in a desolate future where a resistance is fighting the people in charge. The movie lacks some bullet-time but other than that it’s pretty clear the Matrix served as an inspriration for this film starring a Christian Bale who was slowly on his way of becoming an A-list star. But to be honest Equilibrium is more than just a rip-off of the Matrix.
In Equilibrium a fascist-like government, which has a not so subtle flag, runs its society by forcing every citizen to take a drug called Prozium. This drug takes away the ability to feel anything turning everybody somewhat autistic. No emotions of any kind. The government pats itself on the back at the fact that this method works as there have been no wars since the introduction. To enforce the law there are the Grammaton Clerics who have been trained in the not so ancient martial art of Gun Kata. They bring down everybody who has been skipping their regular dose of Prozium and track down materials that express emotions like books, or the Mona Lisa. Grammaton Cleric First Class John Preston, is Libria’s, the name of the city-state, highest ranking cleric. He is a widower whose wife was executed after being revealed to be a sense offender, leaving him with two children. One morning he accidentally breaks his dose of Prozium and when trying to obtain a replacement the equilibrium center is closed due to a terrorist threat Preston is starting to experience feelings and emotions.
An intriguing concept and at its surface skillfully envisioned but when looking deeper I got a sense of something missing. A more fleshed out world. Libria is a fascist state, completely gray devoid of any color. No libraries, no shopping malls etc. which made me wonder. In a state without feeling and where people are wandering around as zombies what do they do all day? Apart from the law-enforcement and the government there is no insight into peoples daily lives. There has to be some people who have shop selling brand-less products, like food. There is TV but only messages by the “fuhrer” called Father are shown. So what do normal people who are on Prozium do all day? Equilibrium focuses too much on Christian Bale and shows us too little about the world he lives in, a world we should care about. One scene depicting everyday life for the normal civilians could have given the movie that extra depth that it needs. Movies like V for Vendetta, The Matrix and Minority Report do just that and create a believable world because of it.
Equilibrium is a movie full flashy sequences which in some cases reflect action scenes from The Matrix, at some points even generating an awe-moment which I didn’t expect considering the copying nature of the film. I wonder how this movie would have looked if it was made in 1998, or in 2008 for that matter. But the story of the movie is compelling enough to ignore the choice to copy the Matrix and on its own this movie holds up pretty well even giving us a difficult moment when a Berner Sennen puppy is about to be executed. An execution scene where someone has to walk into a furnace is also hard to witness.
I think Equilibrium is a mix-up of THX-1138, The Matrix, V for Vendetta and Minority Report, even though V for Vendetta was made three years later it was written long before this movie was released. It’s a good movie, and despite lacking some depth it is an entertaining movie. It has cool action-sequences and the movie looks good even if consists of that eerily unpleasant cold gray design which is of course what it has to have when depicting such a society. With some extra attention to detail and some more originality in the design of the movie this could have been a classic. Now it’s destined to be just a cult classic.