Friday, August 9, 2013


Being preached to has never been so enjoyable. Made for lovers of sci-fi action.

Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout.


The synopsis (and trailer, which probably gave away too much) would seem to say it all; get ready for a heavy-handed, sci-fi allegory where the 1 percenters live high on the hog while the rest of us slog away in the mud. And if that’s what you thought, you’d be right; you just may be surprised by how much you enjoy the sermon.
“Elysium” works mainly as a sci-fi action flick, but little else. There are plenty of cool guns, gadgets and effects, and the action is well-directed and hard-hitting. There’s also quite a bit of blood and guts for that crowd! Matt Damon was well cast, giving our hero enough likability to care about him, and enough physicality to pull off the action sequences. He also elicits just the right amount of down-homeness to give the sequences of him working a truly dead-end job some heft; working on the line in a factory that produces the very mechanized security guards that hassle him by day.
It moves along at a brisk pace, and just when you think you know what is going to happen next, it gives you a bit of twist. Don’t get me wrong; you’ll guess its ending pretty quickly, but it takes an unusual route to get there. Neill Blomkamp’s prints are all over it in both good and bad ways, since the direction certainly keeps you focused on what’s happening… so much that you may forget this is one big fat treatise regarding the Haves and Have-nots. It does hint at a compelling story about how the human cogs in the machine are not just taken for granted, but are downright dispensable. Most liberal laments are thrown in there; lack of care about the environment, how a lack of education dooms the masses, how a lack of medical services is its own form of hell. Basically, the earth lacks all over the place while Elysium has it all. But between Damon and Sharlto Copley as Kruger chewing scenery (and each other), much of the message goes down almost too easily. The allegorical nature is at once both overly-obvious (the Elysium forces are known as Homeland Security, those left on earth are minorities while those on Elysium are mostly if not all Caucasian, etc.) and dispensed with; Elysium has a great setup and a lot to say. It just ends up not saying much, in favor of going the full sci-fi/action flick. The flashbacks to his youth (using Maxwell Perry Cotton to great effect as a Young Max) certainly give the movie some depth, and introduce us to his childhood sweetheart “Frey”, played by Alice Braga. But they also fall victim to the super-tired “Our-hero-is-special” malarkey.
Sadly, the fast pace doesn’t allow these characters to breathe, much less time to fill the holes along the way (SPOILER ALERT). Why doesn’t Elysium have any of its own defenses? Why does Matt Damon’s character Max change his mind and motivation late in the game? Why can a MedBed repair such carnage and complicated diseases, but not Damon’s possible brain damage? “Because it works for the script” is not a satisfying answer. There were satisfying answers to be had (such as maybe Frey’s daughter is also his from an earlier tryst before he went into prison; thus, he sacrifices himself to save her), but again, the pacing doesn’t allow much time for any of that.
Also, if you’ve seen “District 9”, you’ll find Earth too familiar; especially when Copley shows up (“Release the Kruger!?”). But Copley didn’t get top-billing; Jodi Foster did, even though she doesn’t do much. When she is there, her overdubbed voice and weird accent are distracting. Both she and William Fichtner are one-note and underused.
Still, these points of contention don’t ruin the film, but they do keep it from the heights that “District 9” achieved. But it’s still a good time at the movies, although again, it works more as a sci-fi action flick than anything else. It also seems to have something for everyone; a message, a love story, great actors playing relatable characters, action, special effects, and even small dose of humor. I just wish it had more.

Overall Score for “Elysium” from Rich Bonaduce: B-

“Elysium” is rated R for strong language throughout with lots of bodies exploding and faces being all blowed off and stuff.
109 Minutes

Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Written by: Neill Blomkamp

3 out of 5

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