Skip to main content

Review: Elysium

The summer movie season, in this day and age, is almost strictly reserved for rock 'em, sock 'em superheroes, super spies and giant robots and monsters. Escapism is in full swing during these months and audiences generally reward those pictures that put a smile on their face as they exit the theatre.

Neill Blomkamp is no stranger to this season (his debut film District 9 was also a summer release) but where he differs from the action crowd is a tendency to lean toward the subversive. District 9 was an example of dropping some real-world truths into the cineplex and introducing viewpoints typically not seen in a blockbuster.

Earth in the year 2154 is a world made up of favelas and a lack of resources, the wealthiest citizens have left and inhabit a station above the Earth where overpopulation, hunger and sickness is no longer an issue. With the technological innovation of medpods present on Elysium, broken bones are mended immediately and cancer can be waved away in seconds. Citizens there are virtually immortal.

Such luxuries are vied after by people like Max DeMarco (Matt Damon) who we meet as an impoverished child reaching toward a paradise he could never afford to live in. Flash forward a twenty or so years, and the boy is now a weary ex-con, who no longer rages against the machine. His only opportunity to vent lies in trying to shoot the breeze with robotic police and parole officers, who have a failing in humor or sarcasm. For put upon Earth dwellers like Max the only recourse available to leave Earth is a hacker (Wagner Moura) named Spider with few qualms about stealing and kidnapping to get others to Elysium.

Opposing those seeking a reprieve are Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her private mercenary Kruger (a maniacally unhinged Sharlto Copley). Delacourt is the head of Homeland security on Elysium, tasked with protecting the space station in all the ways that would be deemed unacceptable to others, especially Elysium leadership. Kruger renders these services personally for Secretary Delacourt and takes great delight in doing so.

Max refuses Julio (Diego Luna) and Spider's initial offer to earn some cash moonlighting as a car thief, but after he is doomed to death by a mishap in the workplace, Spider is his last chance to get to Elysium and to one of the medpods that could be his salvation. That chance? It comes by kidnapping the CEO of Armadyne, the company that services Elysium.

What follows afterward will be familiar to those who watched District 9: careful world building that loses itself in the high-speed chase between Max and Kruger.

Matt Damon and Sharlto Copley ground the proceedings with physicality while both operating from the opposite spectrum of humanity. Damon distances himself from his Bourne character here by falling prey to the fears and selfishness that don't inhibit other template action characters. Copley, known mostly for his roles as Wikus and Murdock (The A-Team), creates a vicious chracter in Kruger, one whose psychotic nature gives Max a very frightening obstacle.

The degree of world building that takes place in Elysium is staggering, District 9 was very impressive for its budget, but Elysium shows off what a talented filmmaker can do with a bigger budget. The panicked nature of living in a slowly dying, overpopulated planet blends seemlessly with the surveillance state that is Earth in the twenty-second century. It's a lived in Los Angeles that doesn't resort to that over-saturated cityscape of most sci-fi films.

However, a movie is only as good as its flaws allow it to be and there are some incongruities as the third act rolls out. The security on the habitat consists of gigantic holes that should not be there in order for Max to proceed through his journey. Robots are on the spot immediately to throw poor people out of med pods, but when firefights break out later, they are nowhere to be found. Other characters find themselves making spontaneous changes of heart that don't correlate with any prior scenes.

Given those issues, the overall product and positive impressions regarding all other aspects of Elysium are more than enough to recommend Blomkamp's sophomore effort. Original material like this should be rewarded.

Popular posts from this blog

Hulk vs. The Incredible Hulk vs. The Avengers

There are two movies about the Hulk and one that features the green monster as a major player. One was made in 2003 by an auteur, starring a little-known Aussie. Five years later The Incredible Hulk came out to the same tepid reaction as Ang Lee's Hulk did. This weekend, The Avengers made the Hulk as popular as he has been in a long time. So it comes down to this: Hulk vs. Hulk vs. Hulk. Who will smash whom?

Round One: Acting
Edward Norton outshines Eric Bana as the dual persona of the meek Bruce Banner and the rage-induced Hulk. Eric Bana was given little to do but run and fight and often the audience was just waiting for him to transform. With the Incredible Hulk, Norton's Banner is fully fleshed-out and we are given a reason to care about him. Being allowed to go a little dark with Banner's scenes questioning what is left of his life provided emotional resonance to the character that Hulk lacked. Yet even with the capable performance that Norton gives there was something …

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…

Review: The Voices

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) spends his days working the nine-to-five shift at his new job at the Milton Bathtub Factory. Jerry is chipper to the point that he may turn some people off, but he never stops trying to make friends. Friends are something that Jerry could use because the only other conversation he has is with his dog Bosco and his cat Mr. Whiskers. Things are looking up though, Jerry has been tasked with planning the company picnic and he’s asked a girl (Gemma Arterton) out on a date. Jerry is so excited to share the news he rushes home to tell his pets about Fiona. Oddly enough, both Bosco and Mr. Whiskers start talking back.

No need to go back and re-read that last sentence, yes, Ryan Reynolds has pets who talk back to him. His dog, Bosco, is quite affable, however, his cat, Mr. Whiskers, would feel right at home curled in the lap of Blofeld. Unfortunately for everyone around him, it’s the advice of the evil cat that Jerry heeds more often than not. For all of Jerry’s pleasant…