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From Under A Rock: Equilibrium

September 3, 2016 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: Equilibrium  

One of my (Aaron here) favorite shows is Siskel & Ebert at the movies; two friends who loved movies and loved talking about movies. Even when I disagreed with them, I always found them entertaining and respected their opinions. I loved watching them gush on movies they loved, rag on movies they hated, and argue about movies they disagreed on. And while I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to compare ourselves to those legendary critics, I know I like writing this column for the same reason.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Michael showed Aaron Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. This week Aaron takes Michael out from under the proverbial rock for Equilibrium.

Released: December 6, 2002
Directed by: Kurt Wimmer
Written by: Kurt Wimmer
Christian Bale as John Preston
Taye Diggs as Andrew Brandt
Sean Pertwee as Father
Emily Watson as Mary O’Brien
Sean Bean as Errol Partridge

Aaron Hubbard: So this movie got on my radar as counterpoint to the Hunger Games series; instead of dragging the revolution storyline over four movies, this one arrives, makes its point in style, and finishes before it starts getting boring. While not a critical darling, the movie had the right “B Movie” charm for my tastes and had ideas that I really enjoyed. Michael, what are your thoughts?

Michael Ornelas: Well as you know already, because it was clearly the inspiration for your opening paragraph at the top of the column, I was not too fond of it. That’s not to say it was objectively bad, but there was a lot to it that didn’t work for me. But you have a knack for talking me off the ledge, so to speak, when I’m not big on something you really enjoyed, so let’s dive into our analysis and see where this movie falls for me at the end of this column.
The Dual Nature of Humanity
Aaron: The dystopian society of this film runs on the belief that emotions are the cause of all crime and war. It’s a rigid theocratic military-state where clerics and police are one in the same, making sure that nobody is able to feel. Christian Bale was pretty much the perfect casting for the lead in this film, as he is a master at understated emotion. He sells “not feeling” perfectly, but also delivers as somebody who is experiencing normal things we take for granted like listening to music or holding a puppy. The implicit idea here is that the things we enjoy make us human, make us think, make us ask questions. And that can be death to a totalitarian regime.

Michael: So let’s get this out of the way first: I think this is a brilliant idea/premise for a movie. After experiencing a third World War, I’d imagine extreme measures would be taken by the survivors to ensure that there is no fourth World War, and that’s exactly what’s going on here. The movie even gets its title based on the premise of neutrality. You’re spot on about Bale being a perfect casting choice, and I was constantly impressed with him as the saving grace of this film. The scene with the puppy-slaughtering was tough to watch, but it did have far-reaching implications on Bale’s character, and I appreciated the motivations surrounding that, even if it’s kind of ridiculous.

Aaron: I think one of the reasons I like these scenes is because it highlights how baseline illogical this stuff is, but also vital. At first, I think most of us go “No, why would you hurt the dog/burn the books/destroy art?” But if you think about it, there isn’t a lot of practical value to these things in terms of survival. They do, however, enhance our lives, and I actually came out of it thinking about how much we take those sorts of things for granted.
Face Slice
When Your Ideas Get Away From You
Michael: One of my mantras as a content creator is “There is no such thing as a bad idea, only bad execution.” I feel that the ideas in this movie are so cool, but for some reason I never really felt like the writer/director brought it all together on-screen. It seemed like a great idea infused with things he thought were “cool” as a kid and wanted to put them into a movie one day, regardless of if it fit. Aaron, you already know we disagree on Gun-Kata, but we’ll talk about that a bit later. I feel like the movie distracted itself with too many other things to really be poignant. And I know your response to this is going to be “That was the point,” but the movie rarely made me feel anything. It was just kind of there, only really tugging on my heartstrings with the fact that I’m a dog person and seeing Bale save a puppy was heartwarming.

Aaron: I can actually agree with this to some extent. One of the things that falls flat for me is the odd love story. I felt that was really shoved in because it’s a movie and we can’t have a hero without a love interest, but this movie really didn’t need it. I would have liked to have seen more attention paid to his kids, as they ended up feeling tacked on.

Michael: He had kids? I’m being facetious, but you get the point I’m making — it felt unfocused, and the movie ended up not living up to its potential as a result.
Gun Kata
“Gun-Kata” and Stylized Action
Aaron: One of my favorite things about this movie was the action, which honestly made my jaw drop at several points. “Gun-Kata” was thought up by the director and the stunt choreographer, and combines traditional gun fighting with stick fighting. I love the idea that blocking out emotion gives the clerics the ability to do all the math required for Gun-Kata to work. I especially love the subtext there; being dehumanized can turn us into living weapons, both brutal and efficient. But mostly it’s just awesome to look at.

Michael: See, this is where talking to you can reshape my opinion. That last line gives this artform context within the movie itself as opposed to just seeming like an idea shoehorned in because the writer thought it was cool. That doesn’t change the fact that we are in adamant disagreement on if the action in this movie was cool or not. And we don’t have to agree, that’s fine. It just looked a little bit goofy to me. It looked like the movie wanted to create something as unique and memorable as The Matrix franchise’s visual action style, but fell short because it looked like they were trying so hard. That’s just my take on the end product.

Aaron: I can respect that. Personally I’ve never really been able to get into gunfights in movies. I prefer things to be up close and personal, where I can see stuntman showcase their talent. Having it be stylized to fit more of a martial arts sensibility took something that normally drags for me and made it engaging.

Aaron: For me, Equilibrium hit all the right notes. I liked the ideas, I liked the look of the film, I liked John Preston’s character arc and Bale’s performance. I loved the action sequences; I appreciate it for what it is and will probably enjoy rewatching it soon.


Michael: I found this film to be a mixed bag. Bale was fantastic as were the ideas presented and the premise in general is really cool and makes you think. But where this movie fell short for me was the presentation. Aaron really enjoyed the look of the film while I did not. There were a few moments where I felt like I was watching a SyFy original movie, and that really drags down what could have been a captivating movie in my opinion.


Aaron: You are not wrong about it being SyFy channel level. That face falling off bit was so awful.

Michael: Yeah…special effects around that time were (on average) pretty goofy-looking as we were finally developing new technology with so much potential, but we hadn’t figured any of it out yet.

What’s your favorite Sean Bean death?

Next week:

Michael: So next week’s pick is one of the single-best foreign films I’ve ever seen. There aren’t many that I get so immersed in that I forget I’m reading subtitles, but this is one of them.
Aaron: I have heard this is very good but also tough to watch at points. Am I wrong?

Michael: You are not wrong. I’ve only seen it the one time and it was probably 5 years ago? I’m looking forward to seeing it again with fresh eyes.

What’s your favorite foreign film?

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Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium

Michael’s Still Doing His Web Series!
Michael’s Spin on Things is a comedic YouTube product review parody channel in which Michael Ornelas will review ANYTHING and EVERYTHING in accordance to the criteria provided by the spin of a wheel.

In this week’s episode, Michael reviews a freaking CHAINSAW!! His fictional relationship also comes to a close, his mother gets confused, and he pisses off his friend Taylor by blowing out his headphones!

Aaron Has Another Column!
This week’s Comics Showcase focused on Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man.

Aaron is now on Letterboxd!
Check me out here to see my star ratings for 500 films. I will steadily be adding reviews for them as well as creating various lists that anonymous internet commenters can vehemently disagree with!

The final score: review Average
The 411
Equilibrium lands about average for both of us, with Aaron liking it quite a bit and Michael feeling pretty lukewarm. There are a lot of good ideas here, but they probably aren't executed to their fullest extent. Let us know what you guys made of it.