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Featured Blu-ray Review: Equilibrium / Renaissance

April 3rd, 2012

Equilibrium / Renaissance - Buy from Amazon

This week, Equilibrium and Renaissance are coming out on a Double-Shot Blu-ray. The two films have some elements in common, including a dystopian future, cyberpunk elements and failure to connect with moviegoers. Did either of these films deserve a better fate? Or were they destined to struggle?


The film begins with a prologue stating that early in the 21st century, World War III broke out and the few survivors decided that instead of risking World War IV, the human race would be better off without emotions. They created a drug, Prozium, to block all emotions. All emotionally provocative materials (paintings, poetry, etc.) are rated EC-10 and are to be gathered and destroyed. And anyone caught using such material is to be executed. The job of completing these raids falls to the Grammaton Clerics, who are trained in the art of Gun Kata.

John Preston and Errol Partridge are two such priests, whom we meet at the beginning, while they are on a raid. On the way back, Preston notices Partridge kept a book for himself, although Partridge claims he just wanted to turn in the contraband material himself. However, after being reminded that his own wife was using EC-10 material and executed as a result, Preston double-checks Partridge's actions and catches him reading Yeats. This time he does the executing himself.

That night Preston has a dream of his dead wife and it shakes him so much that the next day he accidentally breaks his dose of Prozium. His young son immediately tells him to get a new dose. (You get the impression that if he doesn't, his son will turn him in.) On the other hand, his young daughter is acting strange. Due to terrorist activity, he in unable to get a replacement dose before his new partner, Andrew Brandt picks him up. During their first bust, Preston starts to become emotional during the arrest of Mary O'Brien, a member of the resistance. Without Prozium, Preston's emotions start to get the best of him, but when he finally gets a chance to replace it, he decides to not take it. He begins to like his emotions.

At this point, you know Preston will turn against the totalitarian government, but the details of that is spoiler territory. At the core of this movie, there is a really good idea. What would happen to society if emotions were illegal? Unfortunately, the execution is pretty deeply flawed in nearly every level. Firstly, the movie seems to borrow too heavily from other films, including older movies like Fahrenheit 451 or 1984, to newer movies like The Matrix or Gattaca. Secondly, it tries too hard to be stylish, to the point where it interferes with the substance of the movie. Finally, while Christian Bale is very good in the role, having a central character without any emotions makes its it hard to empathize with him.

That said, there are some parts that work. The acting is good, given the difficult circumstances with most characters having to act without emotions. The central premise is strong. And there are some good action scenes. I commend the filmmakers for trying to make more than a mindless action film, but it doesn't quite get there.


Renaissance is also set in a dystopian world, but this time in France in the year 2054. We first meet Ilona Tasuiev as she goes into a club to try and buy... something, from a scumbag called Dmitri. The deal is going poorly, because he's demanding more money. They aren't able to complete the deal, because Ilona's sister, Bislane, shows up. The pair have a fight and Ilona leaves, but she doesn't make it into her car before she is kidnapped.

We next meet Captain Barthélémy Karas, a member of police, while he is on a hostage rescue mission. The mission is aborted when it appears the hostage is in danger, but Karas goes in by himself, and unarmed. One might think he was he was there to negotiate, but his plans are a little more fatal to the hostage takers. After that, he's told about the kidnapping of Ilona Tasuiev and learns she was one of Avalon's top researchers. Avalon is one of the largest corporations and creates miracle anti-aging medicines, as well as cures for terminal diseases. Karas and his team start investigating the crime scene, getting her schedule, lists of friends, etc.

While his team is working on background information, Karas begins interviewing the people closest to Ilona. He starts with Dr. Jonas Muller, her co-worker and the man who called in the crime. Dr. Muller used to be one of Avalon's top researchers and was trying to cure progeria, but quit when he failed and started a free clinic to help the poor instead. Ilona had taken up his research, but when she had the time, worked in his clinic. The next person Karas talks to is Bislane. She was the last person Ilona saw and while she is desperate to find her sister, she doesn't exactly trust Karas. (In fact, she starts an investigation of her own.) Finally there's Paul Dellenbach, her boss and the CEO of Avalon. He's even less forthcoming with details than the others.

At this point in the police procedural, we start to run into a lot of spoilers, so that's a good place to end it. Like the previous film, Renaissance is loaded with style, both visually and narratively; however, this time it works a whole lot more. It has a very deep film noir feel to it with a good mystery that has some cyberpunk undertones to it. (It's not quite as large of an element as it is in Blade Runner, but it's there.) Granted, the story isn't the most original out there, while many of the the characters are archetypes more than fully developed individuals (sullen cop / detective, femme fatal, corrupt corporate bigwig, etc.). The film's visuals are stunning. It is a rotoscoped CG animated film that is literally 90% black and white. There are only small highlights of color and for the most part, there are only hints of gray. Some people have complained the high contrast is tough on the eyes, but I didn't notice.

The Extras

There are no extras for either movie. Additionally, there are two movies crammed onto a single BD25 disc, so don't expect a lot out of the movies in terms of video and audio quality. Equilibrium is a step up from the DVD, but the level of details is mixed, the colors are not as vivid as they should be, etc. Renaissance, on the other hand, is a lot better with clear details, very deep blacks, and the occasional splash of color is bright. Neither film has a lossless audio track, while they don't stand out in term of immersion.

The Verdict

The Equilibrium / Renaissance Blu-ray Double-Shot only costs $16, which is not a bad deal for a release like this. If you like both movies enough to buy them separately, then it is worth picking up. For that matter, getting either of them individually might actually cost more than buying the double-pack, as they are out of print.

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Filed under: Video Review, Equilibrium, Renaissance