Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Directed by Neill Blomkamp.
2013. Rated R, 109 minutes.
Jodie Foster
Wagner Moura
Emma Tremblay
Faran Tahir
Jose Pablo Cantillo
Adrian Holmes

Matt Damon plays President Obama. Okay, not really. It's probably too soon for you to get where I'm going with that so I'll come back to it later. Damon actually plays Max Da Costa who lives in Los Angeles in the year 2451. He's a convicted felon trying to live life on the up and up. That's a little difficult when the police, automated by the way, just yank you out of line at the nearest checkpoint and arrest you whenever they want due to their knowledge of your past. I imagine its also difficult when you know unequivocally that you will never rise past a certain station in life. Such is the way of society in the twenty-fifth century. All those beautiful and wealthy people that make up the one percent have finally just packed their shit and left us here. Literally. They live on a space station high above Earth named Elysium. They've got it so good, they even have a machine that cures any disease in a matter of seconds. The rest of us slugs are stuck here on the third rock basically going all crabs in a bucket on each other. For us regular folk, getting sick is pretty much a death sentence. As luck would have it, that's precisely what Max does. Well, not exactly. He actually gets exposed to as much radiation as humanly possible without dying on the spot or transforming into The Incredible Hulk. He's told he will most certainly expire in five days, is given some pills to make the time bearable and sent on his way. Understandably, he tries to get to Elysium, ASAP! One little problem with this: the good folks in the sky shoot down anything approaching their home and immediately arrest anyone aboard anything that manages to slip through.

I like to start with positives, so let's talk action. This is clearly the best part of the movie. It's fast, brutal, and certainly more graphic than I expected going in. Another plus is the premise. Theoretically, if we were to start living anywhere other than Earth's surface, the super rich and/or important would probably be our first colonists. What would it be like if they all just took off one day? There are also shades of the sci-fi classic Metropolis present. The rich and the poor really do live in societies segregated by bank account sizes. Just like in Fritz Lang's masterpiece, and in real life (oops, didn't mean to say that out loud), the elite are largely supported by the labor of the poor while simultaneously thumbing their noses at them. In fact, John Carlyle (Fichtner), who has to be on Earth to oversee operations for his company, incidentally where Max works, tells us directly that he hates "breathing this air."

Unfortunately, things never quite come together like they should. One problem is that once it's established that our hero needs medical help, the exploration of the differences between the classes ceases. Instead, we quickly shift into Star Wars mode as Luke (a sleep-walking Matt Damon) and the Rebel Alliance try to infiltrate the Death Star. We're not as behind them as we should be because we discover that the people of this particular empire aren't really all that evil. They might be oblivious, an indictment on its own, but not enough for us to go all in on their mission. This leaves our Darth Vader, or Delacourt, played by Jodie Foster, seeming to act alone, except for her Earth-bound Boba Fett, or Kruger (Copley). As Vader imitations go, Foster does a piss poor one. She plays it completely stone-face, which isn't too terrible. However, she takes it way over the top by speaking with the most ridiculous accent from nowhere since Tom Hanks in The Terminal. It's especially grating because no one else is doing it. By the way, she's also got a little Col. Jessup from A Few Good Men going on. I say this because one of her big moments is giving her version of "You need me on that wall!" She even seemed to be struggling to refrain from blurting out "You can't handle the truth!"

So far I've mentioned Metropolis, Star Wars, The Terminal, and A Few Good Men. This points to another big problem with Elysium. It's too transparently derivative. I get that there's nothing new under the sun, but this doesn't even try to disguise the fact that it's just a hodgepodge of other, better films. Even the look of it, during the scenes on Earth, is very similar to another movie. That movie is director Neill Blomkamp's own hit District 9. It gets to the point where you just start picking out which movie each particular element comes from. This works for the best when, say, Quentin Tarantino does it as a way of paying homage and putting his own spin on it. Here, it feels like a lazy knock-off someone is trying to pass off as the real deal.

If there is one part of the narrative into which great effort was put, it's the movie's message. Sure, our hero is sick, but great pains are taken to make it clear that his ex-girlfriend's daughter Matilda (Tremblay) is even sicker. She's stricken with leukemia. Even though her mom, played excellently by Alice Braga, works in a hospital, they can't afford treatment and even gets kicked out of said hospital. The only thing we need to know about her is just what I've told you. She's a child who is probably going to drop dead before Max. This is why our sickly Luke Skywalker is really Pres. Obama. He's gonna get this poor girl cared for, dammit! Whether or not you agree with it on principal, I think we can all agree the Commander-in-Chief used some forceful tactics to get his baby passed into law. Again, regardless of how I feel about it, because I actually think it's a good idea, just poorly executed, we don't need a two hour commercial for ObamaCare, even if it does use excerpts from some of our favorite movies.

MY SCORE: 5/10


  1. Great review Dell. Not a perfect piece of sci-fi, but still a credible one that’s fun and quick when it needs to be.

    1. Thanks. It just doesn't quite come together the way it should.