Elysium (The Long and the Short of It)

Elysium

 

In 141 years from now, Earth will be so overpopulated that the wealthiest people will abandon the planet and establish their home  in an orbiting space station called Elysium. Earth will belong to the downtrodden, and the never the two groups shall meet. That’s where things stand at the beginning of Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium. The year is 2154 and Max Da Costa (played by Matt Damon) is just one of the many billions of poor workers still on the forlorn planet. He lives in a Los Angeles, where the skyscrapers have been turned into ramshackle housing, and works in a factory that builds robots to serve the rich. When he is exposed to a toxic dose of radiation, his only hope for survival is on Elysium, where every home is equipped with a MedBay, a healing station that cures every malady known to man. But making it off the planet and onto Elysium is no easy task. The space habitat is fiercely protected by its Secretary of Defense, Jessica Delacourt (played by Jodie Foster) as well as her Earth-locked muscle-for-hire, Kruger (played by Sharlto Copley). Things only get more complicated when Max’s former flame, Frey (played by Alice Bragga) reenters his life.

My Rating

It was OK

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The Story The premise isn’t exactly new. The haves have something that the have nots don’t, and it’s not fair. The movie puts its own spin on the idea, with the haves actually leaving the planet to the poor. The biggest problem is that the movie devolves from an engaging, if somewhat familiar, story into a less interesting action/adventure story. The ultimate showdown in the movie just feels wrong because it doesn’t focus on the main conflict between the two factions. It just turns into video-game style violence. Maybe writer/director Neill Blomkamp was trying to make a point that no revolution happens without bloodshed, but revolutions also involve rallies and speeches and motivating the populous.

Another problem is that we see so little of Elysian life. We only interact with the power players like Delacourt and the CEO of Max’s company, John Carlyle (played by William Fichtner). I would have loved to have seen how the regular Elysian people lived and what they thought of the current situation on Earth, if they even thought anything of it.

 

The CharactersMax is a likeable character because Matt Damon is a likeable actor. You completely believe and understand his motivations for making it to Elysium, and just about all his actions jibe with those motivations. Jessica Delacourt is your standard two-dimensional, power-hungry, wanna-be autocrat. Nothing to see there. Sharlto Copley’s Kruger was much more interesting but wasn’t used as effectively as possible. He should have either had a smaller role or been used in another fashion. Frey is mostly there because Max needs a love interest.

 

The ActingAside from Jodie Foster’s odd accent, all the acting was satisfactory. Damon imbues Max with an earnest resolve that keeps your attention and your sympathies. Wagner Moura plays Spider, a smuggler of people from Earth to Elysium, and he spoke in an interesting cadence that I couldn’t tell if I liked or simply found distracting. Sharlto Copley gave my favorite performance, even if his character was misused.

 

The AestheticElysium is a beautiful movie. The production value is amazing. The ravaged Earth looks so real. There’s no movie lot feeling here. The opening shots of Los Angeles are so well done that you get a good sense of place early on. The factory that Max works at looks the way you’d expect a robot-manufacturing factory to look. These are major strengths. We easily feel grounded because of the verisimilitude of this new Earth. Elysium, the space station, looked nice, but it wasn’t nearly the Shangri La that the Earth people make it out to be. Again, it would have helped if we’d been able to see more about life on Elysium.

 

The Big QuestionDo I want to see it again? No. I don’t think I’d get much more out of the movie with a second viewing, but in a few years if I’m channel surfing late one night and I see Elysium playing, I could see myself watching it until I fall asleep.

 

Similar Recommendations

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V for Vendetta Poster V for Vendetta: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." That is the title character's view on the government/citizen relationship and his reason for trying to overthrow the totalitarian government in place. If you want to see a movie about revolution that knows how to utilize violence, this is it. (Buy it on Amazon.com: Instant, DVD, Blu-ray)

 

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