Retroplex Cinema: Equilibrium (2002)


Equilibrium (2002) hit theaters for a very limited run in December of 2002.  Almost no one saw it in theaters but the internet then became a buzz of this little science fiction film from director Kurt Wimmer.  People began talking about it and telling their friends and when it hit DVD in May of 2003 it became a modest cult hit through word of mouth.  Now almost ten years later the film still has a very loyal following but it seems that many people have still not seen it.  It was recently released on blu-ray disc, but it's a disc to be avoided since it is in 2.0 sound and the wrong aspect ratio.  The DVD version however is excellent and can be found for under 10 bucks in most stores.
      Possible Spoilers Ahead: So what is Equilibrium exactly.  The film stars Christian Bale, Sean Bean, Taye Diggs, and Emily Watson, and it's a post apocalyptic science fiction film basically in which emotion is outlawed in the future and all forms of material goods that can lead to emotion.  In the future the governing body of "father" hopes that by outlawing emotion it will keep the world at peace and avoid further war.  To keep emotion in check people take a drug called prozium in daily doses.  The law is upheld by the Tetragrammaton.  They go out of the city into the "Nethers" to round up and kill "Sense offenders", people that choose to not use the prozium and have emotions.  The Tetragrammaton is a  group of futuristic police officers so to speak known as Clerics, who are specialized in the art of "gun-kata", a fighting skill that teaches the cleric to maximize his abilities with a loaded gun. 
     Gun Kata is a fictional gun-fighting martial art discipline that is a significant part of the film. It is based upon the premise that, given the positions of the participants in a gun battle, the trajectories of fire are statistically predictable. By pure memorization of the positions, one can fire at the most likely location of an enemy without aiming at him in the traditional sense of pointing a gun at a specific target. By the same token, the trajectories of incoming fire are also statistically predictable, so by assuming the appropriate stance, one can keep one's body clear of the most likely way of enemy bullets.
     The Gun Kata shown in Equilibrium is a hybrid mix of Kurt Wimmer's own style of Gun Kata (which he invented in his backyard) and the martial arts style of the choreographer. They disagreed on the appropriate form of Gun Kata, with Kurt Wimmer advocating a smoother, flowing style and the choreographer supporting a more rigid style. Much of the Gun Kata seen in the film is based on the choreographer's styleKurt Wimmer's Gun Kata is dispersed sparsely throughout the movie, most notably in the introductory scene with the silhouetted man, played by Wimmer himself, practicing with dual pistols.
     As the story of Euilibrium unfolds, the Clerics discover that their is an underground resistance that hopes to allow people to feel again.  Cleric john Preston, played by Christian Bale, is asked to infiltrate the Resistance and become their champion so that he can destroy it from within.  Instead he realizes that having emotion and "feeling" is a powerful human trait and as he deals with all these new emotions, he decides to fight back against Father himself, and in the end free the people of the city and start the resistance full fold as the movie ends.
     Why it's a cult hit? The film was shot on just a 20 million dollar budget, but Wimmer does an amazing job using smart locations to give the film a look of a higher budget with fantastic special effects and costuming.  Most of the filming used locations in Berlin, due to its unique mixture of fascist architecture and modern architecture. According to the visual effects supervisor Tim McGovern who worked alongside Kurt Wimmer, the fascist architecture was chosen "to make the individual feel small and insignificant so the government seems more powerful." In addition, the modern architecture that is also found in Berlin, emphasizes the futuristic and stolid appearance of the city state of Libria. Moreover, while the city state of Libria has thick walls represented by an abandoned fortress-like East German military base, the exterior of the city is filmed in the decrepit neighborhoods of East Germany, where many of the surviving rebels reside. In addition to the geographic location, a few European art directors also made substantial contributions to the production  Although this is a science-fiction movie, Wimmer intentionally avoided using futuristic technology that can become obsolete, and he also decided to set his story in an indeterminate future. “I wanted to create more of an alternate reality than get caught up in the gadgetry of science fiction,” he explains. “In fact, there’s no technology in Equilibrium that doesn’t already exist. It’s more like a parallel universe, the perfect setting for a parable.”The action in the film totals around 10 minutes but it's some of the best and most unique action sequences seen in a film in some time at this point.  The internet gave it a huge buzz on genre websites everywhere as people began to talk about it.  The critics didn't like it but that says nothing about the film.  The film is a solid and very decent science fiction film and it still holds up very well almost ten years later.  The film has spawned numerous fan fiction stories as well as even a video game mod called Hall Of Mirrors. 
    If you just want to see a cool slick science fiction film then see Equilibrium.  If you have already seen it, then watch it again and spread the word about it.  It deserves to be seen.

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