Sunday, August 25, 2013

Review: Elysium

Copyright: Sony Pictures
I didn’t buy Neill Blomkamp's District 9 back in 2009 – I was impressed by the wise use of CGI and the way it was perfectly interwoven in the relatively low budget movie – the rest simply didn’t do it for me, not in the way I suspected it was supposed to do.

Now, I don’t buy Elysium ether. Once again, the same demon haunts his new movie – stating the obvious and presenting it as a deep social commentary.
In his previous movie, segregation that still plagues the South Africa collective conciseness was the main topic. In the world of Elysium, it’s not the separation of people on the basis of their skin color or other biological features; instead, in the 22. century, mankind is divided by money. The ones who have it live on a enormous space station called Elysium, which has its own gravity and government. Citizens of Elysium have almost endless recourses and technology that makes them immune to illness or the regular aging process.

Back on Earth, everything apparently became Gaza Strip, with a pinch of Mexico, at least for the residents of Los Angeles. Here lives Max, a former low level criminal, who is trying to do the right thing by working on a production line in a factory that makes cotton mills from the 19. century look like Google HQ. One day, he gets in accident involving radiation. Only way he can survive for longed than five days is to illegally travel to Elysium. Disoriented and confused, Max is forced to go back to the criminal underworld and get what he needs through violence.

If I look at this movie from a more distant position, all elements fit together just fine. It’s an action adventure in a exciting future dystopia, full of great visual effects and thrilling action scenes. But, as I zoom in, I see flaws – primarily in the form of badly drawn characters. This is most evident in Elysian Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt, played by Jodie Foster. Everything about Delacourt screams evil, even her forced, fake accent. On the other hand, Max’s old friend and love interest Frey is a nurse, has a sick daughter and wants to help everybody, just like imaginary nurses and great moms usually do in poorly written movies.

 The Elysian society lives in marble houses, and prefer three piece suits for their leisure moments; people of LA mostly look like the members of the rebel gang from the The Running Man, but with more laptops. Some elements in the movie were invented for the single purpose of looking good in slow-motion CGI explosions. On the other hand, the whole dynamic of Earth government is unclear – does the planet have a governing body, or is Elysium running everything? Who cares, let’s show instead a sequence of a android being blown to  pieces. The movie Looper comes to mind – its ruined future isn’t explained in much detail on-screen, but the atmosphere that its director Rian Johnson builds makes it a lot more believable than this one.

And, of course, there is the MESSAGE – great divisions between the rich and the poor will lead to a lot of problems, people!

Thanks Neill, but I kind of knew that.

Again, just like in District 9, this movie has a mission to entertain us with pretty SF images and fast/-paced action, and at the same time, deal with complex problems like the global wealth divide. Once again, it performs much poorer in the latter part.