MORIARTY Betrays No Emotion When Discussing EQUILIBRIUM!!
Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
One of the things I love about sites like CHUD and AICN is that we can choose to support a film whether it’s got a $50 million marketing budget or not. We’re not like most magazines or press outlets, where the size of the release mandates the size of the coverage. Instead, it’s as simple an equation as this: if we like something, we talk about it. If we like something a lot, we talk about it a lot.
So it doesn’t surprise me to see Nick Nunziata gettin’ behind Kurt Wimmer’s still-unreleased sci-fi action/thinker EQUILIBRIUM, a movie that plays like GATTACA and THE MATRIX got into the Brundlechamber and emerged as some uneasy hybrid. What works is downright awesome, and what doesn’t is still pretty good. So why the hell has this been sitting on a shelf since last summer?
The Grammaton Clerics are part religious order, part crime-fighting super unit. Cleric John Preston (Christian Bale) is the best of the best, a hardcore killer who has proven the intensity of his devotion, paying the highest price there is. He gave his own wife up for sense crimes. She stopped taking her Prozium, you see. Prozium is what you take every day, you see. Several times. Everyone has their watch and their little injection gun, and when the alarm goes off, you just put the needle to your neck and SNAP! Instant harmony. Everything is mellow. Permanently. No highs. No lows. Just a simple moderate passive acceptance. This is the way it has to be. This is because of man’s own nature, the nature that led to the third world war. This is because man’s nature will inevitably lead to a fourth war, one that may not be possible to survive. The Grammaton Clerics are the ones who make sure that other people don’t step out of line. They track down and destroy sense offenders. And as terrible as it is in FAHRENHEIT 451 when they destroy books, this is worse. This is the destruction of everything of any kind that might make you feel or dream or hope or laugh or cry.
It’s life with no reason to live it.
John Preston’s wife tried to tell him that, but he didn’t listen. He just kept up his Prozium, and he made sure his children kept up their Prozium, and he kept going to work every day, enforcing the law, feeling nothing.
You don’t have to be a psychic, or even a particularly rabid genre fan, to know where the story is going to go in the broad strokes. He’s going to have some sort of awakening. He’s going to question the world he lives in. He’s going to choose something that goes contrary to his place in society. He’s going to have to fight.
One of my very favorite films is Terry Gilliam’s BRAZIL. I love the way Sam Lowry is slowly brought into the real world though his encounters with Buttle and Tuttle and Jill and his mother and Mr. Helpmann and Jack Lint. I love the way he finally chooses to fight back by simply retreating into the dream life he has built for himself. EQUILIBRIUM gives us a main character who has a very different reaction when his mask slips a bit and he suddenly sees the world for what it is. Preston’s first moment of real discomfort comes when he tracks and kills his own partner, Cleric Partridge, who is played by Sean Bean in a great, soulful cameo. He gives great brood here for the few minutes he’s in the film. He and Bale have a very interesting dynamic, very specific. Bean is resigned to the fact that he’s a criminal. He knows he’s going to be discovered. He knows he’s going to be destroyed. The joys of a Keats poem are worth it, though, and he embraces his fate willingly. He’s not strong enough to fight the system, but he is strong enough to remove himself from the game. He knows Preston will kill him for his sense offense, and he doesn’t do a thing to stop him.
Not that he could stop him. The first major action scene in the film is a shootout in the dark that is just breathtaking. It’s original, a great idea executed to perfection, and in some films, this would be the very best thing you saw. In this film, it’s a warm-up for what comes later. Christian Bale is utterly convincing as a man who training and sedatives have transformed into a perfectly-balanced weapon, a killing engine that can be pointed at anyone and simply released.
And we get a great indication of that when he shows up for his first major incident in the film. There’s a group of sense criminals holed up in a warehouse where they’ve stored some emotional relics, the sort of thing that stirs up their passions. Paintings. Music. Poetry. Anything that challenges you to feel. Bale has the advance team knock out the lights in a room, then knock out the lights in the hallway outside so that when he opens the door and enters the room, there’s no silhouette. There’s no anything. It’s pitch black. Wimmer stages this entire first sequence in the absolute black of that room, illuminating it only with the muzzle flashes from the two guns that Bale wields with remarkable, almost supernatural precision. He bends his own body in various bizarre contortions as he does so, something we later learn is part of the training for the Clerics. They’ve figured out the mathematical possibility of combat, and they put themselves in the least statistically possible place to be hit at each moment of a fight, so he’s not just posing so it looks cool. He’s simply outmaneuvering every shot fired at him, even as he picks off the people in the room based on where their shots are fired from. It’s a startling burst of kinetic violence, original in concept and execution, and it’s not the best moment in the film. Not by a long shot. And when you see this scene, and you lose your mind... and if you’re a self-respecting action geek on any level, you WILL lose your mind... then I want you to remember I said that. What you just saw is not the best scene in the film. Or the second best. Or even the fourth best.
That’s what sort of ass-kicking you’re in for.
I think EQUILIBRIUM’s got weaknesses. I think there’s a strange sort of narrative hiccup in act two where Bale’s character just sort of square-dances in place for a while. But a lot of that is because Wimmer seems determined to give Bale room to play, and the results of that can be so striking that I’m willing to overlook anything I don’t think works. Bale goes through his own awakening over the course of the film, encouraged by supporting players like William Fichtner (interesting, as always) and Emily Watson (strikingly shot for the second time this year, and playing a similarly underwritten role), and there are a few highlights along the way. In particular, there’s a scene involving a Beethoven record that I thought was very touchingly etched by both Bale and Wimmer, and an action scene centered around a dog that is just stunning.
EQUILIBRIUM’s not a wildly expensive film, and it shows in some of the establishing shots of this bleak futurescape. Still, I like the design. Even though things don’t look real at every point, there’s a very clean and sterile look to the world that works to help make the point. This place has been leeched of everything worthwhile, and it’s all at the will of Father, society’s benevolent dictator who speaks only by hologram. The Master Cleric (THE CRADLE WILL ROCK’s Angus MacFadyen) is Father’s spokesman, the one who speaks directly to the rest of the order, and he and Bale have the most directly antagonistic relationship in the film. There’s a young Cleric (Taye Diggs) who believes that Bale is breaking down and starting to feel, and he’s determined to catch him at it. Their relationship is overplayed, mostly on Taye’s end of things, but it pays off in one of the coolest action beats in the whole film, so again... I’ll take the bad with the good.
I can’t praise the film as an action movie without specifically praising the people who managed to build the action. Tom Rolf was one of the editors of HEAT, a film that I thought had supercharged action sequences, and EQUILIBRIUM hits an equally high mark. Dion Beebe, the cinematographer of the film, is also responsible for CHICAGO this Christmas, and the work I’ve seen on that film is incredible. Beebe seems to be especially good at recording motion in a way that allows us to see the full range of that motion with crystal clarity. People who complain that they can’t follow most action scenes because of rapid cutting are going to glow with an inner peace after seeing these scenes, where each cut, each motion, each new beat of the scene, all seems to be one long, liquid, incredibly communicative thing that you not only follow, but that you get sucked into. You feel these action scenes. Mr. Beaks described this as “gun-fu,” and Nick at CHUD described it as “gun-kata.” Both terms sound about right. It’s martial arts, basically, with guns used not only to fire bullets, but also used as extensions of the fighter. There is some swordplay here, too, but what idiot brings a knife to a gunfight? Bale (and what I’m sure must be a team of stunt people) proves to be quite expert with whatever he picks up, so each scene is different, charged with the energy of this particular foe or that particular tight corner.
Overall, I think this is a tricky film to sell. I think Nov. 8th and December 6th, the two dates I’ve heard mentioned so far, both suck. You blew it with BELOW, Dimension. Don’t kill this film, too. Hold it until the spring. Find a two-week window in March or April where no one else has an action film coming out. Cut the trailer you need to cut... the trailer you know you can cut with the amazing footage you have to choose from here... and start selling this film. Kurt Wimmer started his career writing movies for the Barbarian Brothers (DOUBLE TROUBLE) and directing Brian Bosworth (ONE TOUGH BASTARD), and he’s written a few studio movies, including one that I quite liked, the John McTiernan remake of THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR. This film serves as an announcement, though, that whatever he did before was a warm up. He’s ready to step up and start making some serious science-fiction action films. Studios would do well to start figuring out what they’re going to do with this guy, because it’s only a matter of time before he connects with something and makes his own MATRIX, his own TERMINATOR 2. He’s got that good an eye for this stuff. I’m still mystified as to why Betty Thomas is making THE STARS MY DESTINATION for Fox. I mean, I saw I SPY, and as amiable as it is, it’s no EQUILIBRIUM when it comes to delivering hard, stylish, cold-blooded action. This one is a reminder of what it is that makes us genre fans in the first place.
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Oct. 29, 2002, 4:03 a.m. CST
by Mac Gargan
I've just come in my pants. U.K release date? Please? This sounds awesome.
Oct. 29, 2002, 4:04 a.m. CST
by TheGinger Twit
no to read the article
Oct. 29, 2002, 4:15 a.m. CST
Why has this movie been shelved for so long? I can't remember the last good movie Dimension Films was responsible for. IMPOSTER was crap, HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION was far worse and actually had me thinking about finding Moustapha Akkad, disemboweling him and then strangling whatever life was left in his corpse with his own entrails... or maybe that was Busta Rhymes? Anyway, I can't believe this studio has that much bad luck with genre films. Do they even read the scripts they greenlight? What about movies like BELOW and EQUILIBRIUM, two movies that actually sound pretty good? Why keep those films collecting dust? I guess it makes much more sense to spend millions on movies that will never see the light of day (or worse, release them with no support). Fuckers.
Oct. 29, 2002, 5:08 a.m. CST
Sam Loomis in Brazil hardly CHOSE to withdraw within his own mind; that would have presented some kind of heroic act, which Gilliam would never opt for. It's quite clear that Loomis' brain has been fried under torture and that all his hopes and dreams have been reduced to a movie forever looping in a lobotomized mind. Yep...pretty grim, but then again Gilliam's dystopic view of the future wouldn't allow a different conclusion without it becoming trite and a betrayal to the movie's integrity as the studio version proved.
Oct. 29, 2002, 5:11 a.m. CST
by drew mcweeny
... that when confronted with the world Sam had to negotiate every day, the only heroic act left to him was to withdraw into that world he'd built for himself, that other place where he could fly and Jill could live and his mother would just go away and leave him alone. And if we're going to nitpick, it's Lowry, not Loomis.
Oct. 29, 2002, 6:08 a.m. CST
Oct. 29, 2002, 6:47 a.m. CST
Although I haven't come in my pants, I'm with Mac on this one. I want this movie RIGHT NOW. Christian Bale, Sean Bean and Taye Diggs in a "Gattaca"/"Brave New World" flick with action. OH. MY. GOD. Did Kurt Wimmer and his crew make this movie just for me? They must have. MUST HAVE. I thought it would only be The Two Towers that excited me this year. I honestly can't wait for Equilibrium.
Oct. 29, 2002, 7 a.m. CST
Vorga! Tiger! Tiger! Did I miss something? This film is being made? This time for real? Hope they don't f*ck this one up. Don't mess with Alfred Bester.
Oct. 29, 2002, 7:06 a.m. CST
Christian Bale and Emily Watson? Seems to be a solid cast. Gunfighting clerics? Are those clerics all male? Ohterwise we could be in for some Bene Gesserit ass-kicking.
Oct. 29, 2002, 7:24 a.m. CST
Ok, what is this blurb about this great novel being brought to the screen. Could anybody give me some information or a link on that? You know that AICNs search engine sucks...
Oct. 29, 2002, 7:30 a.m. CST
by Margot Tenenbaum
...but this sounds like a warmed-over remake of Logan's Run, Blade Runner or any other sci-fi film where a futuristic bad-ass killer learns a little bit about life, love and tolerance. Also, Christian Bale is creepy. Finally, calling the drug Prozium is Ed Wood level allegory.
Oct. 29, 2002, 7:47 a.m. CST
That's the great thing about Moriarty. He's like a passionate, diligent Chef, talking in detail about a savory, succulent smorgasbord he just enjoyed, wanting us to share its delights. I can't wait to see this film.
Oct. 29, 2002, 8:28 a.m. CST
I was lucky enough to see John Carpenter speak (and view a really crappy 35mm print of THE THING) in NYC a few weeks ago, and he mentioned that "The Stars My Destination" was something he had always dreamed of adapting. Carpenter hasn't been on a hot streak by far over the last few years, but I feel like he'd be able to do the matieral more justice than Betty Thomas. Oy vey. And the AICN search engine does suck.
Oct. 29, 2002, 9:51 a.m. CST
Please. Really. Christian Bale is "creepy?" Um, yeah, that's what makes his American Psycho one of the best movies of its genre. What is detrimental about his being creepy? Be specific or keep your crappy opinions to yourself.
Oct. 29, 2002, 10:37 a.m. CST
(M.C.) Hammer also had a starring role! Kick-ass! When is Curtis Hanson going to hook up the Hammer with a biopic? Oh, Kurt Wimmer was also responsible for writing "Sphere". Oh well, everyone's got to start someone.
Oct. 29, 2002, 10:48 a.m. CST
he sounds like a good science fiction director. Thank God.
Oct. 29, 2002, 3:57 p.m. CST
Oct. 29, 2002, 4:02 p.m. CST
Brazil is an all time fave of mine as well Mori. Must admit that I always felt that Sams dream world wasn't an act of bravery but really the way that somebody could still be a colourful individual even in a bureaucratic nightmare world. His dreams fuelled his acts of individualism in the real world and when when he lost that rel world battle and was being torured he had his dreams to go back to. Still if this film is anywhere near as good as Brazil count me in.
Oct. 29, 2002, 4:18 p.m. CST
I didn't read the article on CHUD about this film as I think this film might be worth avoiding too much spoilage, but it's worth checking it out for the pictures. At the bottom of the page you'll also find two gallery pages. Not all of the design is very original, but some of it looks quite nice.
Oct. 29, 2002, 7:50 p.m. CST
Goddam go check these out! If these images don't make you cream your geeky shorts, I don't know what will (excluding girl on girl porn of course).
Oct. 29, 2002, 7:52 p.m. CST
..in Brother. But I'm sure its different enough not to be a rip off. Man, this movie sounds so friggin cool. I cant wait. I'd love to see it make a bunch of money if it was moved to Spring - but then Id have to wait longer!!
Oct. 30, 2002, 12:15 a.m. CST
...Kitano first did the 'in the dark shootout' in "Sonatine".
Oct. 30, 2002, 12:51 a.m. CST
i couldnt remember which one. i remember brother having more shootouts, so i guessed it was that one. Im so giddy that Sean Bean and Christian Bale are in this movie together; two of my favorite actors. Now if Beat Takashi joined in as well, nothing could top it. Its not like he's never done an american futuristic sci-fi movie before. Remember Johnny Mnemonic?? I know, you're probably trying hard not to.
Oct. 30, 2002, 1:16 a.m. CST
But there is one WEE tiny problem with this movie. Gunfight. In the dark. Muzzle flashes being the only lights. what's wrong with this idea? well if it is completely dark or even dimly lit - we will not be able to see the action, and for those of you that have ever actually used a handgun, you know that in near/total darkness, you are blinded for a few seconds by the muzzle flash. "But he just has this almost supernatural sense..." Bullshit, you are turning him into Robocop. Part of the appeal of Bale's character is the fact that because he CANNOT feel, he has no reservations, no fears, no concerns. Which basically is turning him into Robocop without the armor (although it looks like they are both carrying Beretta's). The point is that the Clerics have acheived a level of training that seems "supernatural" because they have nothing to hold them back. No fears, no doubts, no concerns, nothing to impede the performance. Well, except possibly for the recoil froim th pistol. However they are NOT superhuman - they are almost sub-human because of their emotional sterility - but they are still human beings. *** THey changed the name of the drug to Prozium from Librium, because some pharamceutical company actually markets a drug by that name, and lawsuits were threatened. Like all good science fiction, this movie is making a comment about the human condition - specifically it is commenting on the seemingly over-abundance of the use of Prozac, and the fact that since it was introduced less than 15 years ago, over 65% of Americans have been diagnosed with depression and are taking medication for it. But then - we live in the blameless, over-medicated, not my fault, NIMBY society...
Oct. 30, 2002, 1:56 a.m. CST
Yeah, you're going to catch a load of shit for offering up a number like 65% for the percentage of people diagnosed with depression and taking Prozac. Don't be stupid.
Oct. 30, 2002, 3:42 a.m. CST
Those pictures reek of cheese. It looks like a Sci-Fi Channel original. When I saw Taye Diggs in a Gi with a sword, I cringed. Can you really blame anyone for thinking Matrix ripoff? Christ. I'll hold my breath for SOLARIS instead. ps- cracked up at Margot's prozium knock.
Oct. 30, 2002, 4:03 a.m. CST
A certain someone lost all credibility in my book after reverently declaring "The Patriot" better than "Braveheart." No, I can't let that one go.
Oct. 31, 2002, 3:19 a.m. CST
I've been waiting oh so long for this movie to come out. I still don't know why Reign of Fire came to the theatres way before this one.
Oct. 31, 2002, 9:53 a.m. CST
Forgive me, I'm a child of divorce.
Feb. 5, 2005, 2:03 p.m. CST
Well this one got a bit of a slagging off by the reviewers far and wide when it came out and I really don't know why, its a tremendous film. Theres a certain frisson in watching it the first time that you lose in subsequent viewings because you are never clear until the end whether this would be a downbeat 1984 type ending or something more upbeat. Knowing the outcome in follow up viewings takes away some of the impact but not much. ********SPOILER************* You have to be heartless not to get psyched when, near the end the bad guys are crowing over finishing Bale , "entirely without incident" and in very ominous tones he says "no, not without incident". Watch this film it is worth it. Bale is also going to make the best Batman to date, guaranteed.
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