The 5th Wave marked the moment we, as a species, officially reached Peak Dystopian Romance. “Enough!” we cried. “Enough with the gray tunics, enough with the longing glances across revolting crowds. Enough with that thing where Shailene Woodley cuts her hair to signify some sort of emotional shift!” But here we are, my friends, in February of 2016, facing down yet another Dystopian Romance Starring Very Attractive People.
Here’s the thing, though: This one actually looks pretty good. Equals, starring Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult, has a premise that evokes both The Giver and Never Let Me Go and, fine, like, every other dystopian movie. Nia (Stewart) and Silas (Hoult) live in a stark society that’s done away with love, sex, and all manner of sentiment, its citizens “switched off” at birth. But even in his emotionally neutered state, when Silas sees Nia’s face — the face that launched a thousand vampire/werewolf wars — he begins to fall for her, and the two “risk everything to feel something,” as the first trailer explains.
Set to Chromatics’ “Kill for Love” (right, we get it), the trailer sets an evocative tone, one that’s chilly, sexy, and conspicuously silent (a little like Stewart herself). Director Drake Doremus has already proven he knows his way around a lusty, forbidden-romance, what with Like Crazy and Breathe In, and executive producer Ridley Scott has already earned his sci-fi bona fides, what with a few little films called Alien, Blade Runner, and The Martian. Writer Nathan Parker — the man who wrote the similarly creepy Moon — is behind the script. All of this bodes well for Equals, which will likely have a hard time standing out in a market oversaturated with star-crossed-lovers-who-are-also-trying-not-to-get-killed movies.
Early reviews for Equals were mixed, but ultimately erring on the positive side: Variety praised both leads’ performances, as well as the film’s stylish visuals (“the partnership that makes Equals work isn’t just that of its stars, but director Doremus and longtime d.p. John Guleserian, who also lensed AFI classmate Doremus’ first two features”). The Hollywood Reporter was a little harsher, writing “almost everything in the increasingly predictable Equals feels bloodless and derivative, despite the pleasures of watching the very pretty leads, clad in stylish matching white uniforms, as they create heat in a chilly world,” but noting “the commitment and intensity of Hoult and Stewart keep you watching even in a film this bereft of subtext.” In other words: These guys are hot, and that’s enough, really.
Equals will hit theaters this summer.