Cautionary tales of futuristic governments that excessively regulate human emotions and needs have been around for a long time. Quality renditions of these stories are few and far between. The obvious classics stand out; “Metropolis”, “1984”, “Logan’s Run, and “Gattaca” immediately come to mind. “Equals” borrows from many of these, but never does anything to set itself apart.
This story stars two actors who are already known for helming tales of forbidden love, Kristen Stewart as “Silas” and Kristen Stewart as “Nia.” They work together in what is essentially the government’s news and history department. Many years ago, nuclear war wiped out most of the world and now the official record is being created in memorized text and artist illustrations. The cold color palette, pure white clothing, and androgynous hair styles quickly clue us in that is a very repressed society. Through quick and clever bits of exposition dispersed throughout the film, we learn that man has conquered all forms of illness. In an effort to reduce the likelihood of another war, all emotions have also been quashed via gene therapy in earlier generations. Constant reminders instruct citizens to “Monitor your own behavior.” There have been reports of “defects,” individuals whose genes are faulty allowing them to begin expressing emotions again. Dubbed “Switched On Syndrome,” those afflicted are treated like cancer patients. There is no cure for this degenerative disease of emotion, and when it progresses far enough, the sick either take their own lives or are sent to the “DEN” of which there is no return.
As can be assumed from the very outset of this film, Silas and Nia will become afflicted with SOS and will struggle to both maintain and conceal their newfound romantic feelings. No good can come from their mutual affliction, even fellow SOSers warn them that “coupling” will only make the disease progress faster.
From a critical stance, there really is nothing wrong with “Equals.” It’s well directed, the dialog is believable within the world it creates, and the performances are solid. The biggest issue with “Equals” is that it does absolutely nothing new. Everything feels very by-the-numbers, down the Warm/Cold color palette choices and story arc. The art direction is so reminiscent of other movies, it never provides anything unique of its own.
“Equals” boils down to a dystopian “Romeo and Juliet” which looks good but never offers anything that hasn’t been seen before.