One of the things that is so prevalent in speculative fiction is the creation of future worlds that can be summarized in a sentence. In the case of Equilibrium, it is gives us a world devoid of all emotion. Think about the Vulcan on Star Trek, but on Earth.
Before you get to saying: “oh, come on”, then you should know that Equilibrium makes this premise actually quite believable. One of the things I have noticed about dystopian futures in films is there tends to be some sort of bad event that creates some bad aftermath. In the case of Equilibrium, there was apparently a world war that caused society to simply ban emotion. I’m not certain why in the world people would blame emotion as a primary cause of world war, but man, that last war must have really sucked.
As a result, only one city is left on planet Earth and every one takes Prozium (an obvious allusion to Prozac) so that no one gets angry, happy, sad, or pretty much anything else. No art is allowed, no wallpaper is allowed, and there only one book of law in the library. Of course, what would a dystopia be without a giant screen with a guy talking while everyone walks be listlessly?
Yeah, Equilibrium has that, and it is an homage to many dystopian stories like 1984, Brave New World, and other stories of that type. These films usually boil down to one man, usually an authority figure, who discover, in their own way, that society is wrong and must be changed. In this case, it is Christian Bale, who apparently doesn’t have a Batman outfit ready for his inner metamorphosis as he realizes that emotions can be good. Yeah, Mr. Bale isn’t trying to fight the system, but he does his best to blend in, as best as he can. There is no way I can even talk about this without spoiling it, but you should know that there is no way that Christian Bale’s character can effectively hide in this society.
Best of all, there is excellent action as Bale’s character is a “Grammaton Cleric” who has the ability to make crowd control a ballet. There is a scene at the end which I will not spoil, but it is quite awesome.
I found this film succeeds at so many levels. Equilibrium makes no attempt to preach any message about how emotions are good, but it does show that emotions shouldn’t be completely stifled. It doesn’t offer any answer as to what to do with emotions as an individual or as a society.