Dystopia: a community or society that is undesirable or frightening. It is translated as “not-good place”, an antonym of utopia, a term that was coined by Sir Thomas More and figures as the title of his best-known work, Utopia, published 1516, a blueprint for an ideal society with minimal crime, violence and poverty. Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society. Dystopian societies appear in many sub-genres of fiction and are often used to draw attention to real-world issues regarding society, environment, politics, economics, religion, psychology, ethics, science, or technology. However, some authors also use the term to refer to actually-existing societies, many of which are or have been totalitarian states, or societies in an advanced state of collapse and disintegration.
“The end is nigh”! And nowadays, it sure as shit seems that way especially, when you factor in Race riots, mounting tensions between the United States, Russia and North Korea, Cyber Warfare, an inept reality TV show celebrity-now turned President who has more skeletons in his closet than a mausoleum! Yes, the world has gone to shit as these are the times of uncertainty.
They often say how life imitates art and truth be told, oh-fucking-yeah! Welcome to “Post Apocalypse Now” A limited series in which I shine the spotlight on a few memorable or even forgettable Sci-fi dystopian and post apocalypse films that may and have drawn parallels to what is happening in the real world today!
The rules are simple: I give a brief description of a movie, provide analysis and finally, offer an explanation of its foreshadowing.
Remember: what is science fiction, can be science fact!
And with that being said, my first picks are dystopian films made focused on society subjugated under harsh conformities, and the all-too familiar trope of how one man can actually make a difference.
Behold, The Social Justice Warriors!
Written and Directed by Kurt Wimmer
Available on Starz
What’s it all about?
In a not so distant future 2071 to be exact, after the last global conflict (World War 3) all forms of feelings like anger, joy and sorrow are illegal, a man, once in charge of enforcing the law rises to overthrow the system.
To suppress man’s rage and emotion, a drug- a drug called Prozium has been developed to keep society in line to the extent of their behavior patterns mirroring that of the Stepford Wives. To further enforce their edict, the government dispatches super Police soldiers-Gramnerton Clerics Masters of Gun Fu! The clerics are reminiscent of the Blade Runners but instead of tracking Replicants, it is those individuals who violate the law via reading works of literature, listening to music, confiscating art or anything that may enact sheer emotion. These violations are referred to as “sensory offenses” and those who are caught, shall be subjected to punishment as in a death by execution. One morning, Grammaton Cleric John Prestion accidently skips a dosage resulting in the gradual process of emotional restoration. And thus, begins his newfound destiny. But will he survive to fulfill it?
“We have created a new arm of the law: The Grammaton Cleric, whose sole task it is to seek out and eradicate the true source of man’s inhumanity to man – his ability to feel.”
How would you rate it and why?
Equilibrium received a good amount of critical praise despite a dismal Box office reception.
Mistakenly compared to 1999’s The Matrix, this Fahrenheit 45 inspired action drama is best known for its groundbreaking combat scenes. (The fictional martial arts style, called “Gun Kata” gives “Pistol whipped”, a whole new definition!) The world building in Equilibrium seems familiar but in the way of callbacks to classics: Metropolis, 1984, Minority Report and of course Fahrenheit 451 so, if you’re gonna imitate, do it from the best, amirite?
For a low budgeted film, there were set pieces as in cityscapes with propaganda blimps are impressive visuals. So, it seems that the money for its production have been well spent. Actor Christian Bale delivers an exceptional character driven performance throughout the course of the hero’s journey via experiencing various emotional traits: Anger, grief, love, wraith and joy. To be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if WB offered him the role as that certain Dark Knight. The action scenes from Equilibrium are quite sporadic, but well timed for the movie’s pacing and as with many action films, they saved the best for last. I’m very impressed by the combat training be it the Kendo swordplay or other forms of martial arts. It appears Bale does more hand to hand combat in this than all his Batman films combined!
Equilibrium delivers thanks to its share of action, Orwellian premise and emotionally driven scenes as Preston realizes that the so called “Offenders” are victims. The most memorable gut punch moments, goes to the extermination of puppies and what happens to sense offender- Mary O’ Brien (Emily Watson) is somber, yet poetic. The impeccable dialogue free scenes though self-explanatory, serve as a logical companion piece for the film’s narrative. Wimmer’s cinematography, has that mid 80’s aesthetic (As in The Terminator) accompanied by various soundtrack implantations, be it orchestral, retro synth to a tonal shift toward an up-tempo Carpenter-esque track near the film’s conclusion. And it’s an unforgettable one at that! Kurt Wimmer has a good eye for storytelling and of course, action. What’s unfortunate, is that he only made two films in his career and it seems that Ultraviolet was the death knell of his career.
That’s all well and good Stalks, but what’s the relevance?
- Offensive statues and monuments are now being removed and relocated. Although I agree with most of the new policies taking effect, how far will government intervention go to form a better society?
- Fascist Police state, yup we saw this coming now that President 45 has won the election. Recently, he signed a mandate to unban military weapons from being issued to Police officers. (Not good!)
- There’s that old debate between emotion and logic. The choices that we make in life can affect outcome for better or worse and that depends on which path is chosen: Emotion or logic?
- Nazi symbolism: In the fictional city of Liberia, there is a disturbing iconography that bears resemblance to the swastika Nazi flag, the flag today, has morphed into various forms during the Charlottesville protest with the White supremacists proudly displaying the symbol in accordance to the vile backlash caused by the removal of offensive symbolism be it the Confederate flag or the statues of slave owners.
- Taye Diggs character Brandt, is an opportunist and sycophant that also bears an Uncle Tom trait which is familiar to political pundits, FOX News correspondents that are groomed to undermine segments of society.
- Puppet dictatorship: There’s an old saying of “True power, lies behind the throne”, as in such case, “Father” was a visage to continue a totalitarian society. Comparisons can be made with both Dick Cheney and Steve Bannon. But if there’s one thing I must give Trump, is that he finally had the balls to get rid of Bannon, but he’s still a nuisance to the world, if he’s still President of the United States!
And the final verdict?
I pronounce thee-Guilty! Guilty of being a tension filled action thriller with stunning social commentary! Equilibrium is worthy of being an instant cult classic if not a highly rated dystopian feature.
As much as I would have loved for a sequel to be made, this movie didn’t need it. You can read the prequel comic; Equilibrium: (De)Construction here!
Available on Netflix instant streaming.
Written by The Wachowski
Brothers..er, I meant “Sisters”
Directed by James McTeigue
What’s “V” all about?
Written by the Wachowskis (The Matrix, Speed Racer and Sense 8) and based on Alan Moore’s cult classic DC Comics’ limited series, V is set in an alternative future where a neo-fascist regime has subjugated the United Kingdom. Hugo Weaving portrays V, an anarchist freedom fighter who attempts to ignite a revolution through elaborate terrorist acts and Natalie Portman plays Evey, a young, working-class woman caught up in V’s mission, while Stephen Rea portrays the detective leading a desperate quest to stop V.
“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”
How would you rate it and why?
With its heavy leaned message about oppression and resistance V is not your basic “Superhero” film instead the namesake protagonist is more of an anti-hero who goes that extra mile when punishing the bad guys while bearing a charming, yet charismatic persona as opposed to your average brooding vigilante. There are great callbacks to the other dystopian film 1984, especially when you factor in the late great John Hurt as part of the cast, in a role reversal kinda way. Natalie Portman’s Evey, was not too convincing as an English woman and I saw her nothing more than some supporting character to drive the plot device as in V’s “vendetta”. However, its Hugo Weaver’s performance as the titular character, that steals the show. it’s unfortunate that he decided to stop acting in these franchise films as he brought a modicum of gravitas to said movies Captain America The First Avenger and before that,Agent Smith from The Matrix. Overall, I rate V for Vendetta, as in V for “Very good”! If there is one flaw I can point out, is the 2nd act involving Evey being “imprisoned” only to find out that her captors aren’t who she thought them to be. It came off as a bad practical joke.
However, the cautionary narrative from this adaptation, is nothing to laugh about. Especially, when one can draw comparisons between V for Vendetta and what’s going on in our world!
- Talk show pundits that mirrors the Alt-Right who exposes bigotry, racism, Nationalism and xenophobia as “talking points”. Basically, FOX News and other sensational political commentary networks who deliver “Fake News” to further push their agendas.
- Equally thought-provoking, is how the media often promotes fear mongering by utilizing the “Boogeyman” narrative which at times, mislead the public into a panic frenzy, while certain corporations and businesses benefit from mass hysteria especially when it comes to firearms.
- Censorship of alternative media outlets such as YouTube content creators who deliver informative segments that the mainstream media refuses to broadcast. The truth is out there, indeed.
- America slowly becoming a fascist state thanks to President 45, and with his lack of intolerance for the “underclass”, gave rise to resistance groups i.e. Antifa. And have you noticed, how the visage of push back coalition groups such as Anonymous bears resemblance to Anarchist Guy Fawkes?
- Of course, there’s government surveillance implanted after the September 11 attacks and is still used to this very day to “track down Terrorists”.
- Homophobia and Xenophobia: Trump has made promise to expel thousands of illegals by reversing DACA as well as the reversal of Anti-discriminatory laws that have protected Homosexuals within the workplace.
- There’s a great revelation of how the High Chancellor, (Played so brilliantly by John Hurt) came into power and some would say, that it sounds all too familiar. And you know what, they may be right!V is not perfect, but it’s a thinking man’s comic film nonetheless. The conclusion is satisfying and I would say, that this is one of the better Alan Moore based films. Hell, it’s one of the best DC films, period!
When society reaches its boiling point, it’s a necessity for brave individuals to stand up against the oppression of others. Although these films demonstrated how one man can make a difference, it’s a purely a work of fiction.
However, in the real world, we must rely on those who would push back against oppressors be they corrupt government officials, police officers or white supremacists as witnessed in New York, NY, Missouri and Charlottesville, VA. People like these can and will make a difference and it begins with one person at a time!
“Without struggle, there is no progress”-Fredrick Douglass
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke