Saturday, August 10, 2013

Elysium review

Director and writer Neil Blomkamp's first movie District 9 (2009) was a science fiction tale with a contemporary message on race. It was a critical success and was nominated for the Academy Awards' Best Picture. District 9 was also a huge financial success. When Blomkamp talks, the Hollywood suits are going to listen. So, his follow up to District 9 is Elysium.

Elysium takes place in 2154. The rich or Mitt Romney's people have fled earth and live on a gigantic space station called Elysium. The rest of humanity live on the overpopulated, heavily polluted earth and speak Spanish. These are the poor or the 47 percent who won't vote for Romney. I kid Mitt Romney. Anyway the rich live like kings, speak French and oh yeah, have futuristic health care courtesy of a medical pod that can heal major illnesses, and injuries. I'm talking about things like cancer and having your face blown off by a grenade. These medical pods only work for the citizens of Elysium. So the rest of humanity is on the Republican health plan which is to die quickly. Okay, that's from Rep. Alan Grayson. (D-Fla.) Link. I kid the Republicans. Now, the unwashed masses want to get to Elysium to use the medical pods. But Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) won't let that happen. Foster is fascistic and cold. The illegal immigrants are rounded up when they land to Elysism. Delecourt even uses lethal force with a stealth assassin named Kruger. (Sharlto Copley) She orders him to shoot them down. One thing about Kruger. He's seriously mentally ill. Read that to mean he's crazy. Copley's portrayal borders on comedy.

Matt Damon plays Max. From flashbacks, we find out that as a child he has a dream to go to Elysium. The nuns tell him that he will do something great. So he writes and stars in a movie with Ben Affleck and wins an Oscar. Okay, that last part isn't in the plot. Max is a ex-felon, working man who builds robots. You see robots in the future will be cops, medics and parole officers that can detect sarcasm. Also from the flashbacks, we find out that he has a childhood love named Frey. As an adult she's played by Alice Braga. She's a nurse and has a daughter who is dying of leukemia. Both do an excellent job of portraying two poor people trying to make ends meet.

One day at the robot factory, Max is involved in an accident. He's exposed to lethal radiation and has five days to live. His only chance is to get to Elysium. He makes a deal with an underworld criminal. Hack the brain of a brain of Max's boss to steal his secrets. The data would be stored in Max's brain. Oh, yeah they'll put an exoskeleton on Max so he can do cool super human things like rip the heads off robots. Problems arise for the people of Elysium when it's realized that Max's boss has codes that will rewrite society. Delacourt also wants those codes so she can take over Elysium.

If you don't get the metaphors in Elysium, you've been living under a rock or in Canada. Yep, the medical treatment on Elysium, is a metaphor about health care. Those that can afford it and those that can't. Scenes of illegal immigrants hoping out of ships on Elysium is commentary about illegal immigration. And the rich living on a huge space station is akin to the rich living in a gated communities separated from the poor. That's about wealth disparity. I appreciate the ideas but it's a little heavy handed.

But there are major problems with Elysium. A science fiction movie has got to be logical. The first thing that bothered me was if it's virtually impossible to die on Elysium wouldn't they have a population problem? And if things are so bad on earth, why was it overpopulated? I mean all the sick people would die. There are a number of flashbacks to Max's childhood. These sap the movie's dramatic drive. Finally, the character of Kruger nearly brings down the whole movie. First, Copley plays him with a heavy South African accent. When he says a word that sounds like "wahf" and it takes you a couple of seconds to realize he said "wife", then you've got major communication problems with the audience. Then using an insane guy as an assassin that's out of control makes no sense. Kruger engages in a fight with Max on a transport is just illogical. I mean why risk killing Max when he's got that important information in this brain? When Kruger snaps in the last third of the movie, you ask yourself, "Where are the robot cops?" And why does Kruger want to take over Elysium?

Thankfully, Blomkamp knows how to direct a film. He's got a great sense of visuals. On the surface of the planet, there are slums. Above, the earth is a beautiful blue. Elysium reminds me of The Citadel in the video game Mass Effect. Clean. Civilized. Ships look like they really exist. One can thank the legendary artist Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Aliens, Star Trek: The Motion Picture) for some of the design of the movie. Blomkamp generally handles the action scenes well. But he's like many modern directors. The editor has too much control here. Some of the battles are confusing. There are times you can't tell what's happening.

Elysium is a good film not a great one. It's got major problems in the area of the character of Kruger. The grade is B.

Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) highlights the Republican health care plan and the model for the future of earth and Elysium.

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