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Equals Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

Equals (2016) movie poster Equals

Theatrical Release: July 15, 2016 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Drake Doremus / Writers: Drake Doremus (story), Nathan Parker (screenplay)

Cast: Nicholas Hoult (Silas), Kristen Stewart (Nia), Jacki Weaver (Bess), Guy Pearce (Jonas), Rebecca Hazlewood (Zoe), Scott Lawrence (Mark), Kai Lennox (Max), Rizwan Manji (Gilead), Aurora Perrineau (Iris), Bel Powley (Rachel), David Selby (Leonard), Kate Lyn Sheil (Kate), Tom Stokes (Dominic)

Buy Equals from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD + Digital Instant Video

Drake Doremus may only be 33, but he's already had a productive career as a writer-director. After finding his footing with a couple of no-budget, little-seen indies,
Doremus wrote and directed 2011's transatlantic romance Like Crazy to modest returns but a generally favorable reception. His follow-up, 2014's Breathe In, made little impact in limited release, but it too must have had its fans, because Doremus is back with an even more in-demand and esteemed cast on Equals, his first sci-fi movie.

With a PG-13 rating, Twilight's Kristen Stewart and X-Men's Nicholas Hoult as leads, and esteemed Australians Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver in supporting roles, Equals looks like a movie that should have gotten wide release. Alas, distributor A24 did not give it that in North America, where it retreated after a lousy week 2 showing in just 92 theaters. That poor performances reinforces Doremus' commercial impotency and the film also raises some questions about his creative instincts.

Set in a future where emotions have disappeared, "Equals" stars Nicholas Hoult as Silas, a young man who is diagnosed with Stage 1 of the troubling Switched On Syndrome (SOS).

Equals is set in a "utopian" future where human beings have evolved to suppress their emotions. Society runs smoothly as people remain calm and polite. Those who fail to remain docile are diagnosed with Switched On Syndrome (SOS, for short), a debilitating condition that typically leads to death. Our protagonist, Silas (Hoult), is diagnosed with Stage 1 SOS, prescribed some inhibitors to dull the mild emotions he has been displaying, and ostracized in some ways from his workmates. His colleague Nia (Stewart), meanwhile, has been trying to hide symptoms (like a clenched fist in reaction to a suicide) that Silas alone has recognized.

There is really only one obvious story that can be told in this universe, where "coupling" is forbidden and the population flows out of people being summoned for "conception duty." Yes, of course, Silas and Nia begin to fall in love with one another, acting upon their newfound desires in private. And yes, that puts them in a dangerous place, for advanced SOS victims are referred to the DEN (Defective Emotional Neuropathy Center), where they are not long for this world. Emerging as allies to our young lovers are fellow SOS infectees Jonas (Pearce) and Bess (Weaver), a "hider."

Equals is not as interesting as it should be. Science fiction is far richer with possibilities than any other genre, so an entry that feels predictable and lacking in imagination invites sterner criticism than simply another haunted house movie or romantic comedy. Sci-fi consistently delivers original and thought-provoking works, encompassing movies as diverse as Her, Snowpiercer, and Ex Machina to limit us to just a few distinctive productions from the past three years.

Kristen Stewart plays Nia, who has been hiding her Switched On Syndrome symptoms.

Doremus, who is credited with the story, and screenplay writer Nathan Parker (who garnered notice for his inventive debut script, 2009's Moon), fail to inject the proceedings with excitement or insight. Obviously, emotions are a huge part of the human experience and removing them drains much interest and most personality from the world.
Equals shows us that, but fails to convince us with its leads' discovery of love, sex, and what it feels like to really be alive. The future depicted is knowingly mundane, but that doesn't make the film any less of a patience-testing endurance challenge.

No one in the cast makes a strong impression. Pearce is probably the brightest spot, but his screentime is limited. Playing Silas and Nia's boss, David Selby is easily mistaken for 2001: A Space Odyssey's Keir Dullea, which is more of an homage to the genre than Equals can muster. The film isn't as inane as mainstream genre duds like The Divergent Series, but it disappoints all the same, failing to ignite any strong reaction, an offense kind of unforgivable in this genre.

After pulling down its actors' career averages with a pitiful $33,258 domestic gross in July (no, I haven't left off any digits), Equals quickly makes its way to stores on Tuesday in DVD + Digital and Blu-ray + Digital HD editions from A24 home video partner Lionsgate.

Equals: Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD + Digital ($19.98 SRP) and on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Equals looks pretty good on Blu-ray. The 1.85:1 visuals do feature some gradient banding at times, but this does appear to be a deliberate effect. The film disappoints visually as much as it does dramatically, with its sterile close-ups and blue-gray palette growing tiresome in a hurry. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is most distinguished by Sascha Ring and Dustin O'Halloran's striking score.

Drake Doremus is seen directing in one of Equals' making-of featurettes. Jacki Weaver reveals she has shoes older than Drake Doremus, but that doesn't mean she doesn't love him.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's extras begin with an audio commentary by director/story writer Drake Doremus, cinematographer John Guleserian, and editor Jonathan Alberts. They have a comfortable, lively group dynamic that enables the screen-specific conversation to flow.

Slightly more interested in technical aspects than narrative ones, the track touches upon such topics as changes to the film made over time, the use of rear projection screens, the ubiquity of cicadas in Japan, and how the height difference between the two leads was minimized for cameras.

On the video side, we find three HD featurettes.

"Switched On" (8:15) looks at the film in general terms, from conception to development.

"The Collective" (13:35) moves more towards production, with everyone vouching for Drake Doremus' unique creative process and their remarks being complemented by behind-the-scenes footage.

"Utopia" (30:11) goes into much greater detail than necessary regarding the film's futuristic filming locations in Japan and Singapore, also paying notice to the largely practical set and production design.

"Trailers" repeats the disc-opening previews for Into the Forest, Swiss Army Man, The Lobster, Green Room and The Adderall Diaries. Equals' own trailer is not included here.

The moody menu blurs a coupling couple while an excerpt of the ethereal aforementioned score plays. The disc supports both bookmarks and the resuming of all playback.

The only insert supplies your Digital HD with UltraViolet code alongside the plain gray disc inside the slipcovered eco-friendly keepcase.

In a world without love, two people naturally will discover it.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Equals commits a cardinal sin of science fiction by boring the viewer. This tale pitting love against a dystopian emotionless future is curiously short on passion and humanity, making it colder and duller than it ought to be. Lionsgate's Blu-ray offers a fine presentation and okay bonus features, but there are many movies and discs that are far worthier of your time.

Buy Equals from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD + Digital / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: Genius Money Monster High-Rise The Man Who Knew Infinity Maggie's Plan The Jungle Book
Kristen Stewart: Clouds of Sils Maria The Runaways Jumper Adventureland The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Nicholas Hoult: Warm Bodies Mad Max: Fury Road Jack the Giant Slayer X-Men: First Class
Guy Pearce: Iron Man 3 The Road Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Lawless | Jacki Weaver: Silver Linings Playbook Animal Kingdom
The Giver Ex Machina Oblivion In Time Divergent The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection Looper
Written and Directed by Drake Doremus: Like Crazy

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Reviewed September 4, 2016.



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