9. A trashy movie: Equilibrium (2002)
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Sometimes you just have to start off the year with some schlock. The 2002 sci-fi action film Equilibrium throws just enough philosophy on the screen to pretend that it’s dystopian world is well-constructed, but it is a pure piece of brain candy.
Christian Bale plays John Preston, a “Cleric” living in the futuristic country of Libria. After World War III, the government determined that human emotion was the root of all cruelty, and therefore the most sensible option was to drug the entire population into emotionless stupors and destroy all artistic expressions on pain of death. Clerics are super-cops who go around searching out “sense offenders” and executing them, as well as incinerating artwork and killing pets. (Yes, companion animals are considered an emotional luxury, so there are several extended scenes about someone trying to save a puppy.) After Preston accidentally misses a dose of his sedatives, he starts to feel again and becomes entangled in the underground resistance, fighting the totalitarian state that he was previously a cog in.
It is a silly, simplistic dystopia with plot holes you could drive a truck through, but there’s an engaging logic to it; it feels like the premise of an early sci-fi short story, something like Harrison Bergeron. It’s the laying of “gun-kata” on top of the world that makes it especially ridiculous. Nothing says “The Matrix came out three years ago” like a martial art based around tai chi and slow-motion gun fights. It is incredibly silly and has very little to do with the main premise of the story, but it looks cool and that is what counts for Equilibrium.
The moral questions of the plot are boiled down to “Emotion = Good, Freedom = Good” so that you can have Preston’s mind be blown by bits of music and colorful ribbons and neatly avoid all of the real questions about why humanity would take this out after a gruesome global war. But for a popcorn flick, Equilibrium accomplishes what it sets out to do. It has some cool ideas, some flashy gun fights, and you get to defeat the evil government that kills puppies. If you’re in a mood where that sounds appealing, go for it, but don’t expect anything more.
Would I Recommend It: For a cheesy movie night with friends, yes.