Sunday, March 16, 2003

And I could have seen "Far From Heaven"

On Friday I went to see the film Equilibrium. This was very bad, but in a fun way. It was kind of a mixture of 1984, Farenheit 451, Brave New World, Logan's Run, and The Matrix. We are in a future world in which World War 3 has occurred and in order to prevent World War 4, all emotions are outlawed due to the fact that emotions caused World War 3, not to mention World Wars 1 and 2, the battle of Thermopylae, Alexander the Great's conquest of the known world, and no doubt various other skirmishes. The entire population is required to take regular doses of a drug called Prozium, that gets rid of their emotions. A group of enforcers, called "grammaton clerics" get to kill "sense offenders", people who have taken to feeling emotions. These men, who wear black riot police type uniforms, also have the job of destroying any material that the dictator referred to as "father" has had rated "EC-10" for "emotional content". (I'm not quite sure where the "10" comes from, but I clearly left the Motion Picture Association of America out of my list of influences). These people are also trained in extreme killing skills, so they can shoot rooms full of armed sense offenders in total darkness, or win gun battles in cool looking but implausiable ways when there is only them against fifty or more guys with machine guns on the other side. Christian Bale plays one of these guys, . After we see him torch the Mona Lisa, and shoot Sean Bean for reading the poetry of W.B. Yeats, he misses his meds and starts feeling emotions himself. Then he arrests a peculiarly English sense offender played by a slightly overwrought Emily Watson, and blah, blah, blah.

In any event, it was a bit of a guilty pleasure. After watching it, I thought I would check out a few reviews, to see if the critics found it a guilty pleasure themselves. Let's see.

I guess Prozium just doesn't work that well. Yet it's effective enough to turn Preston and Brandt into remorse-free killing machines for much of the hyper-violent plot that leads up to the inevitable (and almost laughably gory) showdown – at least until the newly sensitive Preston witnesses the wholesale slaughter of a bunch of helpless puppies. Talk about cheap sentimentality.

(Michael O'Sullivan - The Washington Post). Yep. He got guilty pleasure. The massacre of the puppies was particularly ludicrous, yes. Let's try another one.

If "Equilibrium" has a plot borrowed from 1984, Brave New World and other dystopian novels, it has gunfights and martial arts borrowed from the latest advances in special effects. More rounds of ammunition are expended in this film than in any film I can remember, and I remember "The Transporter."

I learn from Nick Nunziata at that the form of battle used in the movie is "Gun-Kata," which is "a martial art completely based around guns." I credit Nunziata because I think he may have invented this term. The fighters transcribe the usual arcs in mid-air and do impossible acrobatics, but mostly use guns instead of fists and feet. That would seem to be cheating, and involves a lot of extra work (it is much easier to shoot someone without doing a back-flip), but since the result is loud and violent it is no doubt worth it

(Roger Ebert. Chicago Sun-Times). Yes, him too. Okay, one more.

To help fight "sense crimes," the state employs ostensibly emotionless clerics trained to kill as efficiently as possible using a wildly implausible but strangely hypnotic fighting style that combines geometry, martial arts, and good old-fashioned ultra-violence. Bale stars as one such cleric, a stone-faced killing machine who begins to question his commitment to the job when his partner is executed. A chance meeting with an adorable puppy causes Bale to further question his allegiance to the evil, monolithic state, as does his relationship with condemned sense-criminal Emily Watson. During its weaker moments, Equilibrium's premise raises questions it has no interest in answering. What is courtship like in a world where emotions are forbidden? Does the state outlaw all emotions, or just powerful, easily identifiable ones? What about emoticons: Are they outlawed, too?

(Nathan Rabin. The Onion AV Club).
Christian Bale seems to get right into it. He knows that he isn't going to spend a huge portion of his career running around in black and shooting people while doing backflips, so he makes the most of it. Emily Watson's role actually isn't enormous, but in her scenes she has this "What am I doing in this movie? It's time I got a different agent" expression that Julianne Moore manages in Evolution. Still, she does the big eyes bit as well as anyone. I wonder why she did the movie. She has worked opposite Christian Bale before (in the English urban angst movie Metroland) so perhaps someone is doing it out of friendship to someone else. It isn't her kind of movie. I suspect though that most actors get a certain amount of pleasure out of doing something ludicrously over the top from time to time, and this was one of those times. From Christian Bale's point of view, however, this is two in a row (after Reign of Fire) so he probably needs to do something serious. Still, this one deserves to be listed in the Onion AC club's Films that Time Forgot feature in 2012. That one was just boring.

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