Like the first film in the franchise, The Equalizer 2 is a gritty action-thriller with its roots in the real world. But one thing separates it, along with its predecessor, from other action blockbusters – and that’s ‘Equalizer Vision’. Or ‘McCall Vision’ as director Antoine Fuqua refers to it. This enviable ability is actually a superpower in all but name, putting Denzel Washington’s Robert McCall on a par with superheroes possessing enhanced vision such as Superman, Hawkeye, Hyperion and Cyborg to name a few.
So what is ‘Equalizer Vision’ and how does it work? Well, Robert McCall, a highly trained ex-intelligence agent now operating as a vigilante, is able to zone in and assess the threat immediately in any situation. He instantly clocks the weapons available to him, whether gun or corkscrew, often turning the most innocuous of objects into an instrument of death. In the same moment, he’ll know precisely how he’ll use them on the roomful of bad guys and the time it will take to neutralise the threat. Not too far removed from Hawkeye, in fact – a superhero without powers per se but who is at the peak of human conditioning.
Eye Doctor Meets Navy Seal
Fuqua explains how he came up with the innovative way of depicting McCall’s ability on screen.
“I was reading [the script] going: ‘What’s ‘McCall Vision’?’ And as I was doing that, I had an eye doctor’s appointment a couple of days later,” he said. “And so, I just started to ask [the eye doctor] questions about that. What happens to the eye in trauma, in different situations? So he started to explain about the eye and the pupil, and human beings. How we react to violence; and when we get scared, how the pupil opens for more light, and all this.”
He put this eye-opening conversation together with chats he’d had with some of his extraordinary friends and the picture began to get a little clearer.
“I have buddies who are special forces guys, navy seals guys — those sorts of guys — that I’m around and train with,” he said. “Some of them are more comfortable in [violent situations]. They’re so used to it — they’ve been trained that way — that living in the real world is almost more awkward for them. When it comes to the violence, they’re more comfortable in it: their heart rate slows down and they become ultra-sensitive to everything in the room around them. It’s like a fighter, you get in the ring and all of a sudden that’s your world, you’re sensitive to every little movement this guy does because that means something. So I was saying, ‘How do I visually show that? Because this is motion pictures’.”
He said to himself he’d go “inside” Robert McCall. In the films, the camera zooms in on McCall’s eye as if to go through it, then shows us what McCall sees.
“And you hear the heartbeat slow down, and he starts to see danger or things to be used,” said Fuqua. “One of the things I was taught by a lot of the guys that I’m around is everything in the room is a weapon and there’s no rules in a fight. And certain individuals — SAS, special forces, any of these type of guys — when they fight, they’re trained to kill. So everything goes. Bottle, pillow, towel, whatever. There’s no rules. And that’s how I started to think about it. I said, ‘They would assess whatever’s in that room that could be used as a weapon, or whatever is in that room that’s a threat.’ And so I was trying to show that. And then it became superhero vision. But that’s not what the intention was.”
Fully Fledged Superhero
Though Fuqua himself might stop short of calling McCall Vision a superpower, there’s a moment in the film where McCall is turned into a superhero. In a sketch by Ashton Sanders’s Miles, a young character flirting with the wrong side of the tracks and taken under McCall’s wing, the boy depicts McCall as a fully fledged superhero.
“Because to Miles he is a superhero,” explains Fuqua. “When I was a kid I remember guys that I looked up to that were a certain size or had a certain power about them. They were like superheroes to me, whether it was a ball player or a guy in the neighbourhood that seemed invincible to me. So, in my young mind, he was like a superhero. Miles is an artist, so his way of referencing a man that helped him, almost honouring him, was to sort of immortalise him in that mythology of the superhero.”
This is something that Fuqua has cemented with his own depiction of Equalizer Vision. And, of course, all of this gains way more significance when you consider Fuqua’s revelation that he’s speaking to Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige about helming a Marvel movie.
The Equalizer 2 is out now in the US and Australia, and hits UK screens on August 17.