Friday, August 9, 2013

A Reel Review: ELYSIUM

In 2009, director Neill Blomkamp blew audiences away with his sci-fi thriller DISTRICT 9, which also served as his statement on social divide and racism. Here in 2013, Blomkamp once again uses a similar backdrop to fuel his newest Earth-bound sci-fi film, ELYSIUM.
In the year 2154, the rich and famous live on a space station called Elysium, which is free from disease and poverty and can cure any ailment with its technology. The rest of civilization lives on the diseased and devastated planet Earth as third-class citizens. Max (Matt Damon) is a factory-worker/ex-con who gets infected with a deadly virus. He hooks up with his old prison mates to make a run at Elysium, which is protected by a power-hungry defense secretary (Jodie Foster) and her mad-dog bounty hunter (Sharlto Copley).

ELYSIUM spends a lot of time setting up Max’s back-story and character, which is mostly centered on his childhood friend (played as an adult by Alice Braga). Once things get rolling and the plot tries to escape the confines of Earth, ELYSIUM suddenly becomes sci-fi for dummies. Plot points and character motivations are spelled out bluntly and with a heavy-hand, and then repeated over and over as if the audience were a bunch of third-graders in need of repetition. With so much repetitiveness and blunt storytelling, the film loses its rhythm and flow, and ultimately its own heartbeat. It doesn’t take long before you realize ELYSIUM isn’t a very fun place to be.
There are still some good elements to enjoy from a sci-fi perspective. Director Neill Blomkamp has shot a visually stunning film; everything from the Earth-bound slums to the beauty of outer-space are presented in breathtaking visuals. The sci-fi tech is probably the real star of the show; everything from robots, aerial vehicles, weapons, bio-mechanical suits, to computers are impressive and put to good use. As impressive as the visuals are Blomkamp seems to forget to drive home the point of why Earth is such a terrible place to live; we are simply told and that makes things less desperate. Action scenes are decent to very good, although some suffer from way too much goddamn shaky-cam.

Acting is mixed bag. Matt Damon does for the most part OK, but he never seems to get it out of first gear. Sharlto Copley is the most entertaining out of it all; again showing great range as his savage character is a real force to be reckoned with. Copley however too often falls into a cartoon character and his monologues are border-line laughable. The real head-scratcher of the film belongs to Jodie Foster, whose stupid character could have been played by anybody considering how little of an impact she has. She also has a bizarre accent which is an odd combination of South African and French and also manages to disappear now and then.
The finale wraps things up nice and tight and suddenly turns what was a very personal story for Max into a much wider, global-impacting event. By then it is too late, because when the smoke clears you can’t help but to think that ELYSIUM is a missed opportunity to create an important, thinking-man’s sci-film. Its ambition shoots for the skies, but only makes it so far.


No comments:

Post a Comment

A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.