Elysium

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elysium
“It is just a small tattoo of a butterfly you’re going to give me, right?”

I really enjoyed District 9 a few years ago. Most critics did, but the late Roger Ebert wrote something in his review that was odd. He couldn’t get past the ship the aliens had being broken down, but still hovering above Earth without a gravitational pull bringing it down. I’m guessing if he were around today, he’d complain about the place all the rich folks are living up above earth. It’s a huge creation called Elysium, and as my friend Mary pointed out, “How can they breathe?”

It’s true, there is no dome, so you wonder how the atmosphere works there. I give these science flaws a pass. It’s supposed to be the future – 2154. I’m just assuming there’s a back story we didn’t get, and I’m fine with that.

Writer/director Neill Blomkamp was a bit more subtle in his apartheid message in District 9, but in this – we get the health-care and immigration issues in such a way that it becomes a heavy-handed mess.

District 9 had no budget, and still scored a Best Picture nomination. This movie won’t come anywhere near the Oscar’s. A critic texted me after the movie: “Epic fail.”

It wasn’t a complete fail. The special effects were rather impressive, and the cast was a lot of fun.

Matt Damon plays an ex-con in Los Angeles, which is overpopulated, has polluted air, and lots of people with ailments. Ever since he was a kid in an orphanage with a crush on a girl, he had dreamed of living on Elysium. This gives the filmmaker a chance to make a story about the have and the have-nots. And just as I complained about Woody Allen doing this in Blue Jasmine – you still need to write interesting scenarios not just a message most people would agree with anyway. I don’t need to keep being reminded that the rich people are bad and don’t care about anybody, and the poor people just want decent health care. I would love to sit Blomkamp down and say, “You do realize that character Spider, who helps Damon try to get Elysium – probably wouldn’t be a great President either, right? He’s involved in illegal activity on Earth, so I seriously doubt he’s filled with all altruistic motives.”

Nope. It’s just the rich and powerful people were supposed to hate. The criminals on Earth do this because they “have no other options.” Yet, Matt Damon plays a character working at a job he hates. And some incidents there make him decide it’s time to make the break for the big wheel in the sky that keeps on turning (my apologies to Steve Perry). His old crush shows up (Alice Braga) as a nurse. Her daughter has leukemia, and she wouldn’t mind going to Elysium for the Obama care – which is basically a chamber that seems to cure anything, even a face that’s been blown apart (which was amusing to watch, but should’ve given us a creepier finally product – think Twilight Zone).

Jodie Foster channels Nurse Ratched and Darth Vader, as the Secretary of Defense who doesn’t bat an eye shooting “illegal aliens” out of the sky that try to land on her precious space station.

There’s a great villain named Kruger (Sharlto Copley from District 9). You may not understand everything he says, but he looks menacing in that beard and weird markings on his body.

Foster has a client (William Fichtner) who is going to help her with a coup that throws out the President. Fichtner has had a great career in Hollywood playing bad guys that usually die half way into the movie (not sure if I needed a “spoiler alert” there). Since Fichtner is coming up with a computer system that will help Foster take over, Damon decides to kidnap him on his trip to Earth.

The visuals of the post-apocalyptic world are fun, but this is nothing we haven’t seen before. Everything remotely cool in this film has been done in: Total Recall, Blade Runner, RoboCop, Iron Man, Alien, Bourne Identity, Mad Max, and Contact (in fact, even Fichtner and Foster were both in Contact). Even the various accents and languages (Foster speaking French, Damon fluent in Spanish, and Copley with a Dutch accent)…seems to be striving for some melting-pot vibe, which has also been done in futuristic films. Very little is original in this movie.

There were some riveting ways people were executed. That’s always a nice plus, especially when after an interesting first half, the second half is one big shoot ‘em up.

The movie could’ve used a few more touches of humor (the scene with Damon being sarcastic with a robot is clever). It could’ve also helped to make the characters not so one-dimensional.

It’s a visually dazzling film, but the heavy-handed messages and the lack of originality make it hard for me to give it anything other than 2 stars out of 5.

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