Science-fiction movies have long had a history of flirting with the concept of a “utopia.” However, the recurring problem of any utopia is that they are often always a “dystopia” in disguise. Is life truly paradise without the pleasures and pains that go along with being human? This question is explored in the new upcoming film, Equals. Although it’s a premise that’s been seen a hundred times before, will a couple mildly interesting tweaks and the addition of an actress from a former vampire romance trilogy give it the spark it needs?
Our society’s current issues are often solved with pills and Equals touches on this with its use of emotion-dulling pharmaceuticals called “inhibitors”. Inhibitors work to quell any emotion that the user may have because in the world of Equals, emotions are treated like a disease. However, it seems that two members of society have been infected with emotions and start to fall in love. Kristen Stewart is the backbone of the film here, with her usual subdued method of acting really ratcheting up the sexual tension with her co-star Nicholas Hoult. The underlying theme of repressed love that defines the movie is pieced together over the alleged utopian landscape. The couple want to get away to this mythical peninsula where, it is said, lives can begin anew.
Although the plot focuses on the flattening of emotions, the camera works in close-ups of the actors throughout the entire movie. This heightens the emotional appeal of the movie while counterbalancing the theme of repression and anxiety that cloaks the film in a cobalt blue haze of tension. Director Drake Doremus and cinematographer John Guleserian stand out for their sleek, stylish and visually stunning creation. However, a movie cannot stand on good-looking effects alone.
Equals has painted its audience an ill-defined picture of its world. We are told the rulers of the society are called “The Collective” but nothing else is expanded upon, or why the population feels the need to obey them. As the movie progresses, it seems as though the story falls apart and no ideas have really been fleshed out by the end of the film. Who exactly are the people in charge? What really is “The Peninsula”? What actually happened during the “Great War”? None of this was answered and yet the audience was supposed to infer what happened in the finale.
In a reversal of traditional release protocol, Equals will be previewed on DirecTV before its release in theaters this summer in July. Perhaps this will allow for audiences at home to make their own opinions. While it is certainly more cerebral than the typical popcorn movie that audiences flock to this season, it possesses enough visual flair and big-budget special effects to satisfy those not necessarily looking for a great story. The movie received mixed reviews from critics and fans alike during its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Overall, this film does what any science fiction film is supposed to do, which is entertain and you think about our society, even if for a moment. The more discerning fan of the genre may not find a lot to love about it, nor should they, but the casual viewer will presumably find it satisfying enough to enjoy even if they soon forget about it.