Elysium

August 18, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Posted in 2013 | 2 Comments
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Neill Blomkamp is apparently carving out a niche for himself as the director and writer of heavy-handed sci-fi allegories.  With his first full length film (“DIstrict 9”), Blomkamp took on apartheid in a less-than-subtle way but at least that film had an edge that tempered the moralizing.  Not so with his sophomore effort.  “Elysium” is a giant space station where all the rich and mostly white humans live in complete tranquility.  Earth is filled with the poor, who are almost entirely Hispanic (at least those humans we are shown).  Poor Earthlings are constantly trying to sneak across the border into Elysium so that they can have a shot at a better life, or at least get to lie on one of the magic cure-all tanning beds.  Sci-fi can be a powerful medium for exploring current social ills.  However, for that to work effectively, it has to be intelligent and nuanced and insightful.  The bad guys of Elysium are soooo bad and the good guys are ultimately so noble that the whole things feels like an off-color joke.  Nothing is worse for an allegory than shallowness.  The answers here are all painfully (really almost offensively) easy; all the world’s problems can be solved literally with the flip of a switch (or the insertion of a USB cord).  The ending is so trite and sentimental that it would have pissed me off had I not seen it coming for the past 97 minutes.  Add on top of this the sort of plot holes and lazy writing that drive me crazy.  How do the villains find Max’s (Matt Damon) girlfriend’s home?  There is nothing in the story that would have plausibly led them there but it sure helps move the plot along.  How exactly does an open-air space station work, anyway?  And, when it goes “off-line” and shuts down completely, why doesn’t the gravity and life-support fail?  And, really, truly, how can an entire plot revolve around doing a hard-reboot in the mid-22nd century that looks like something out of the movie “War Games?”  Oh, and why is Jodi Foster doing that horrible accent?  What accent is that even supposed to be?  These things trouble me. Perhaps, they should not. But they do. When the first scene of the movie was of cherubic, doe-eyed children bathed in the light of a golden filter, I knew I was in trouble.  But, what’s a guy to do?  I set my jaw and plodded on through a lazy and saccharine mess so that, perhaps, you wouldn’t have too.  Now that’s what true sacrifice looks like, Max.

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  1. It occurs to me, in rereading this, that I don’t really justify why I gave it any lozenges at all. So, I will say this: Blomkamp has an eye for the visuals. Like in “District 9,” the images of the ravage Earth in this film are compelling and evocative. There was an aliveness to his dirty, rundown Los Angeles that made me want to spend more time there and learn about its people and culture. Frankly, I would have been much more interested in a movie about that community with no mention at all of the sanitized and painfully boring Elysium. Also, I should have mentioned that Sharlto Copley (who had the lead in “District 9”) is brilliant as the villain, Kruger. He knows how to have fun playing evil and I hope to see much more of him doing that in the future.

  2. Awesome review


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