Elysium, the new science fiction film by Neill Blomkamp is an altogether dreary affair. Though the film initially appears promising, it doesn’t take long before the visual serenity and grade-A special effects wear off and we are brought to the disconcerting realization that the film we are about to devote two hours of our time to will more than likely be a giant waste of time.
The year is 2154 and the world has been divided between two classes of people: the very wealthy and the poor. The wealthy live in Elysium, a luxurious dream world of a space station. Meanwhile, the poor live on earth, which has become an overpopulated and overall dismal place to reside. The central action centers around Max (Matt Damon), a former car thief who works in an assembly line for a big corporation. When an accident at the plant occurs, Max is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation which gives him mere days to live.
That is unless, as is explained in an incredibly clumsy fashion in the following scene, he can get to Elysium and hook himself up to a medical device called a Med-Bay, which evidently cures you from any and all disease. There is also a side story involving Max’s childhood friend Frey, whose daughter has leukemia and also needs to be transported to Elysium.
Max’s relationship with Frey is unclear; we aren’t really sure if the two are merely friends or perhaps more. But Blomkamp doesn’t really seem to have much interest in this and we, by extension, don’t either.
Dismissing the silly all-rich-people-are-evil-all-poor-people-are-good morality the movie seems to flirt with (it’s insulting to any semi-intelligent person on any side of the political spectrum), the film simply suffers from not being very good.
Hitting every single character cliché and moral convention with lightning speed, Blomkamp seems estranged from anything remotely resembling ingenuity; he makes a movie that feels like it’s a movie.
Things start going poorly in the movie the second the audience begins to see the blueprint it was created from. The film lacks the subtle nuances necessary for greatness.
A worthwhile endeavor for Blomkamp would be to get a dictionary, look up what the word “subtext” means and study it. There is a scene at the beginning of the movie where some people on Earth attempt to “cross the border” and get into Elysium.
Gee, I wonder what the filmmaker is attempting to articulate with this scene. The script also has poor dialogue. Blompkamp, along with James Cameron for that matter, seriously needs to learn that adding profanity here and there doesn’t suddenly make your writing any less bad.
Matt Damon is flat, though we aren’t given the impression that he’s had much to work with. And then there’s Jodie Foster, who gives perhaps the worst performance of her career. A good idea for a drinking game would be to watch Elysium with friends and take a shot every time that Jodie Foster is awful. After a while, you and your friends will begin to wonder whether the puking is being induced by the alcohol or her performance.
At times, Elysium is a very good-looking film and the special effects are great. But who can talk about special effects for more than a couple of sentences? Blomkamp does utilize hand-held techniques well at times and his vision of the future is somewhat unique- though not more unique than say, Fritz Lang’s vision or Ridely Scott’s for that matter. Yet his technique is flawed. He relies far too heavily on flashbacks, which, when not handled properly, often just seem like an easy-way-out kind of filmmaking. In addition to this, the film is poorly edited and constructed. The scenes don’t flow; it’s like a Dadaist experiment, only it isn’t very interesting.
As evidenced by the plethora of superhero and sci-fi films created within the last 10 years, films are getting younger. And they are giving youth a horrible name. As opposed to infecting us with the sense of curiosity, wonder, and wild passions youth inspires, several are taking these things and torturing the juices out of them until they become sterilized conventions devoid of any and all sincerity.
In a world bred on pop imagery and advertising, we are starved of anything which is remotely authentic. The films are being made by filmmakers who know films but evidently don’t know much of anything else.
The end result is nearly always the same; despite the set-pieces, despite the effects, despite the craft, they end up with dead movies.
Elysium is mindless entertainment alright- only it isn’t even entertaining. Movies like Elysium should be taken as insults to audiences everywhere. But people keep eating them up.
The factories that make mass-produced garbage on a daily basis also make movies. Mistaking pop tarts for steak, audiences ultimately don’t seem to mind; they’ve had their fill.