The latest SciFi movie to hit the screens, Elysium, from the director of the fabulous District 9, Neill Blomkamp created some contradictory feeling in this particular viewer. I agreed with fellow geek, Mr. Instagram, that the aesthetics and effects of the movie were great. Probably along the same lines as those in Oblivion (more parallels to be drawn with that movie in a moment), the ships and filming was great. Especially after being underwhelmed by the over-the-top-in-your-face-bombastic approach of Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel, and Pacific Rim, the more handheld feel here and its restraint in fight scenes was particularly appreciated. The ideas were fairly cool and the spaceships were totally badass. If only the writing, the acting, and the storyline itself kept pace.
I found the premise of the movie to be somewhat pedestrianly similar to Oblivion (the folks on earth left to fend for themselves while providing natural resources to folks in space – ok so there is an environmental / anti-colonialist message there, but so what, I mean its not like we haven’t heard that before right?). OK, so beyond the fact that we have the rich folks led by the somewhat bland acting of Jodie Foster‘s character (threatening but one-dimensional) up on this space wheel living the good life and we have the rest of humanity in squalor down on the degraded earth (this could have made perhaps a better zombie flick than sci-fi flick, no?), and we have the back story of Matt Damon‘s hero character. There is a bit of anti-corporate sentiment here (à la District 9) but what I found distracting was all the leaps of faith and just poor script choices. The young Matt is reading a textbook in Portuguese (?!) but speaking in Spanish – ostensibly in Los Angeles. I mean, OK, maybe LA gets runover by its Spanish population, but why would he be bilingual if he was raised by a nun speaking Spanish because he certainly speaks with his slight native Bostonian accent (no LA accent I could hear) when he talks English? And what about the lame product placement? Are we to believe that in 2153 (or whatever year they said it was), Samsung is still spitting out brand-spanking new 51″ flat screens? How about that Bulgari watch of Jodie Foster? Hmm. I also took exception with the exo-skeleton implant in his brain. Um, what exactly was the point? They could have just pulled the stuff onto a USB key right? And why is it exactly that it doesn’t kill him to grab the data but it does kill him to extract it again? And how is it that one minute Matt looks like he will pass out from radiation poisoning, the next he is hauling ass down some corridor…they tell him that the skeleton will hurt like hell but he doesn’t seem at all uncomfortable. And when we see the suit programming, um, in the 22nd century, we are still writing machine code and COBOL? That was also a bit of a stretch for me. Like the fact that the crippled rebel leader can just look for half a second at the feed and realise, “oh yeah, that’s the reboot code for Elysium, of course!”. Just like the bad guy later somehow being able to read the stream and make the same determination (and how did he pirate the data when it was going over a wire connection between the brains of Matt and the suit? Hmmm. As for the acting, Matt Damon was pretty flat. I read that Eminem turned down the role because they wouldn’t film this in LA. On one hand, I think he is an idiot for doing that and it may have been more fun to see him in this role. On the other hand, D looks about this rundown in many areas (just watch the first episode of Low Winter Sun and you’ll see what I mean) so the decor may have worked too. Back to that again, umm, so all the freeways in LA just mysteriously disappear and there are no cars except the souped-up ones of the rebel dudes? Enough ranting but just wanted to mention where I felt that my tolerance for suspension of disbelief was seriously stretched too far.
As for how it stands with respect to other recent SciFi, my friend Instagram felt that this was slightly inferior to Oblivion (he genuinely liked that movie) because of the aesthetic. I was disappointed by both Oblivion and Elysium but felt they were WAY better than Star Trek Into Darkness or the abysmal Pacific Rim. I guess I have to wait for Gravity to MAYBE see some gripping SciFi (although this does look like a space-bourne version of Speed). They just don’t make SciFi like they used to anymore now do they…
I’d be hard-pressed to give this more than a 2.5/5.0 personally.
- Elysium review: Not quite as fresh as District 9, but a cyborg Matt Damon won’t disappoint (metronews.ca)
- Review – Elysium (mahoutofu.wordpress.com)
- Elysium (filmstvandlife.wordpress.com)
- Film Review – Elysium (2013) (jordanandeddie.wordpress.com)
- Elysium (weeklyfilmreviewer.com)
- Film Review: Elysium (themarshalltown.com)