EQUALS review

Right off the bat, after viewing the trailer, I wasn’t very excited for it. Don’t get me wrong, I think the cast is fine. I like Nicholas Hoult, Kristen Stewart, and Guy Pearce, but I feel like this movie is basically a pretentious Romeo and Juliet. And of course, the easiest joke that can be made would be, “An emotionless society and the focus is Kristen Stewart? She must be right at home then!” I don’t know, “emotionless” movies seem like they’d be really hard to pull off because if characters aren’t allowed to emote, it can easily take away sorely needed energy to get the audience invested. Also, in the trailer, there’s this line that states, “physical contact is a danger.” Immediate first question is, “So how do you procreate?” Yeah, this wasn’t getting me hooked.

Behind the camera wasn’t looking too promising either. The movie is directed by Drake Doremus. If you’ve never heard of him, that’s not a shock. He’s only directed a handful of films and none of them I’ve heard of. But if he’s able to land an acting powerhouse like Pearce for the third time, he must be doing something right. Also, the writer of the movie is Nathan Parker, who has only written two feature length films; the critically acclaimed and highly popular MOON (2009), and BLITZ (2011), a Statham film that I doubt anyone saw or remembers. So… a little iffy on this one too.

I wasn’t going in to this movie with high hopes, but we’ll see how it pans out. Was this movie greater than, less than, or equal to my expectations? This is my honest opinion of EQUALS.

(SUMMARY)

Set in the distant future, society has opted to believe that emotions are the root of destruction and have made active attempts to rid the human race of them to be productive people. Should anyone show signs of emotion, a supposed disease/condition called Switch-On Syndrome (S.O.S.), they are taken to a facility and are never heard from again. Efforts are being made by the government to create a cure for SOS, but no results have been made public yet. Enter Silas (Nicholas Hoult). He’s a dutiful young man, respected among his peers, and has a knack for seeing the subtle. This comes into particular play when it comes to Nia (Kristen Stewart), whom he notices shows signs of emotion when the two of them and their fellow classmates witness a suicide. Silas eventually confronts Nia about her possible SOS, mostly because he slowly realizes that he’s “infected” with SOS. Soon, he and Nia talk about what it’s like and eventually strike up a secret romance, as physical contact of any kind is prohibited. But as their relationship becomes more wild with emotional exploration, the riskier their activities become and more and more people become suspicious, threatening their relationship.

(REVIEW)

Boo ya! Totally called it! It’s a Romeo and Juliet story. No joke, it doesn’t even stop at the whole “forbidden love” stuff. No, we have a full cast that’s supposed to represent the characters from Shakespeare’s play. Pearce plays Jonas, who’s supposed to be Friar Lawrence, Jacki Weaver plays Bess, who’s supposed to be Nurse, it gets pretty obvious who’s supposed to be who.

Unfortunately, I also called that this movie was a pretentious version of that story… and it is… on top of being unbearably boring. Like I said above, it’s really hard to create a story about emotionless characters because it’s difficult to put energy into a performance that requires no energy. I won’t rip on either Hoult or Stewart as both have proven themselves to be fine actors, but they turned in utterly boring and dull performances. That’s not their fault though. There was nothing that they could have done to make the roles engaging. You could have put Meryl Streep and Morgan Freeman in the roles, even they wouldn’t be able to save it.

In fact, it’s not even just them. It’s the entire movie really. That first hour is brutal to sit through. It’s everyone talking like robots. Oh, but they show the most exciting elements occasionally. Like when Silas is eating… yeah, the way he cuts his food, the way he chews, the way he showers (for you ladies out there), the way my sarcasm really needs to be seeping through right now, IT’S BORING!!! Word of the day. And if they’re not showing this riveting footage of dining and showering, then they’re showing them in… class? At work? It’s never really all that clear, but it’s also incredibly boring. I think these scenes are supposed to reveal what the world was like after whatever kind of apocalypse destroyed the world, but… who the hell cares? If the meaning of emotion is to carry any weight in this world, then the audience should know the cost of having them. A general answer of, “emotions are bad,” to a question of, “why” that wasn’t really asked doesn’t get anyone invested in the story now. Maybe we can make up our own answers and this ambiguity is supposed to be its own kind if frightening, but it’s more frustrating than curious. Even if you could simply blindly accept the simplicity of this world, it’s hard to deny how aesthetically dull it is to even look at and experience. I love my sci-fi. I love me some Star Wars. But this isn’t a world that’s engaging enough for me to care.

Honestly, if I could do anything different with the story, I would have it be just a little closer to the Romeo/Juliet story by having a war-like conflict. Like, yeah, you have this group that says emotions are bad, but you have another eccentric group that says the denial of emotions are a denial of the human self. It wouldn’t even have to be, say, a war like the Montagues versus the Capulets, but a war of ideals, politics, and morality. Cause and effect, choices and consequences, and the grey area between each chosen side. I just feel like that would make for a more interesting world to witness and see how Silas and Nia navigate through it all. I guess, technically, the story implies that there’s always a few people that feel emotion and manage to escape beyond the confines of their world, but it almost doesn’t make a difference because it’s not like we meet any of those people. They’re just talked about. This is its own kind of double edged sword too because we can’t hope for Silas and Nia to escape to that life if we don’t know their chances of survival out there, what they’d face and whatnot, and what the benefits are if they successfully find a life of their own out there. For Romeo and Juliet, that’d be enough, but Shakespeare’s story is incredibly outdated to me and people of today need more complex answers to more challenging questions, and this story isn’t at all trying to be simple. But even if we did know what awaited Silas and Nia in the outside world, how come there’s so few others before them that manage to successfully escape? I know I’m probably thinking too much on the subject, but to me, the story’s mythology was kind of dead on arrival.

I can certainly respect certain story choices that were made, however. The world makes it clear that there is medication to subside human emotions, but not fully eradicate it. There are, however, ongoing studies in finding a cure for emotions. I respect that this isn’t a story about Silas and Nia trying to rise up and stop a cure from happening, fighting the scientists on that break-through. This world is heading for an emotionless future and it’s only a matter of time, and Silas and Nia are just trying to escape that proverbial implosion. If this were a traditional blockbuster type of movie, we all know the story would head in that direction, but it opts not to. It commits to its own choices, even if the foundation of those choices are lackluster and devoid of sensibility.

I guess I could also admit that some of the technology is a fun idea, tucking beds and entire kitchen set-ups like tables and chairs in the walls, though that doesn’t exactly make up for the rest of the movie. But I don’t think this one thing can be denied: that last five minutes.

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

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By this point in the story, it made a fairly unique twist to the Romeo/Juliet story. In the original, Juliet fakes her death, which is what Nia does, Silas is out of the loop on this plan and thinks she’s really dead, just like Romeo did. Romeo, however, poisons himself in front of Juliet just as she wakes up and she kills herself a few moments later too. This doesn’t happen in this movie. Silas is about to kill himself, but opts instead to cure himself completely of emotions so he would have to feel the pain of Nia’s death anymore. In a way, as far as this world is concerned, this is choosing to die. But this doesn’t stop Silas and Nia from carrying out their original plan to escape to the outside world. I think it’s implied that Silas is staying behind, he knows to help Nia escape. These final moments before the credits start rolling are heart-breaking, quiet, and Stewart and Hoult are acting powerhouses as they let their eyes speak what can only be described as volumes. The subtlest of expressions and gestures, it’s beautifully shot. It’s a crying shame that the rest of the movie couldn’t follow suit.

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, I don’t like this movie. I think it’s not very well put-together, but there are a couple of elements that prevent it from being a train-wreck. It’s incredibly boring (there’s that word again), kind of pretentious, and doesn’t pick up until the final minutes of the movie. I can tell a good movie is in here somewhere, but the execution is beyond flawed. I don’t know if I can recommend this movie to anyone, so I would say give it a pass. I’m just grateful that this movie is so under the radar that even if it tanks, it won’t affect either Hoult or Stewart’s careers. Such talented actors shouldn’t be wasted on poor films such as this.

My honest rating: 2/5

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Upcoming review:

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    • Remake of the 1984 classic with an all-female cast. Stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Chris Hemsworth, and more.
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