Wednesday Movie disclaimer: Spoiler alert for “Equilibrium”.
There was a bit of a mix-up with the Netflix queue this weekend so my original plan of watching The 6th Sense fell through. Would you believe it isn't it streamable? Where's Robert L. Ripley when you need him.
I did, however, watch a Christian Bale film upon the occasion of a recommendation from a friend. Now, I've often had recommendations from friends that I pass on, but in this case the friend also provided a copy of the film and, as I mentioned, The 6th Sense wasn't streamable... Our first impression (I've been married nearly two decades, most of this blog is plural) of the film was that it was a mash up of Gattaca and The Matrix. Then, when it became clear that certain elements were more than just archetypal window dressing, the better parents were Fahrenheit 451 and The Matrix - with a bit of Gattaca/1984 thrown in just make things seem original.
Maybe that's a little harsh. When your story is set in a dystopian future, it's hard to seem fresh. This film very much suffered from the "same" part of the movie-making axiom "Give me the same but different." I read the script for The Matrix two weeks ago and the stories weren't related at all, it was the visuals. Black leather and kung fu. It could have been a Tarantino film if there had been spaghetti western music... and a lot of gratuitous 'R' content. The plot was ***Major Spoiler*** Guy Montag. 100%. Right down to Sean Bean's book. I'm surprised it wasn't billed as a remake. They were called Clerics instead of Firemen, but the character arc of the protagonist and significant plot points were nearly identical.
That's not a bad thing, I thought 451 was a great story (movie was okay) and even wrote "the last chapter" as a project in school. Equilibrium also benefited from remodeled sets/props for its view of the future so it looked fresh – okay, not old (and I was startled to learn it was released in 2002). Taye Diggs was the biggest surprise for me. He played his part very well, keeping us guessing to the very end which side he was going to end up on. As I mentioned, Sean Bean made an appearance but he's gotten into what I can only describe as a "Shakespearean Melancholy Rut" and while he delivered poise in spades, he was completely underutilized if not actually wasted.
In fairness, it wasn't all 'same' - there was a bit of different too, but that seemed centered around the execution of the action sequences. I suppose you could argue that getting an entire society to take Prozac all the time is a twist, but then we're back to Gattaca, the premise of Sean of the Dead, and, as I recall, that was sort of Max Von Sydow's plan in Strange Brew. There was nothing surprising in “the big twist” if you’d seen it done well in Freejack.
Despite all of the familiarity, the writing was good enough to keep us engaged (and awake) wondering which of the familiar paths it would eventually head down. Further, the story was compelling enough that, even knowing what those paths were; we were still interested in making the journey. It wasn't the movie we were planning to watch, or the movie we were expecting when we started, but I wasn’t asking for my life back at the end. It did not suffer from the typical sci-fi maladies of confusing plot, preachy exposition, or under/over budgeting.
Note: We did not watch the theatrical or rental release of the film, it was an airplane edit with the foul language, sexually explicit content, and graphic violence/gore removed. I'll be talking about this type of content in a future post, but I can't help wondering if the lack of ejectors kept us more fully engaged in the story.