August 22, 2013

"There's nothing left down here. They have it all on Elysium, food, water, medicine, and they'll do anything to keep us out. It's time to change everything."
It's just impossible not to drag Neill Blomkamp's 2009 (highly unexpected and shocking) success of District 9 into this review. Still running on the sci-fi path, this South African director/writer is now dividing Earth's communities into two worlds of the riches and the poors. To be honest, I sealed myself from any expectations and early reviews & rates of Elysium; "Surprise me," I said. So, how was it?

In 2154, Earth is highly polluted and overpopulated with serious medical conditions and neighborhoods that look like scrambled and filthy Jenga towers. Fortunately for the riches (and the more "cultured" ones), there's a circular space station called Elysium which hovers over the Earth. Elysium is filled with great mansions with swimming pools, beautiful french gardens and huge golf courses, packed with droid servants which ready to serve you champagne anytime anywhere. But, the best invention is a medical pod that can cure everything, even death; therefore said, you can't be sick, age or die at Elysium. The story centered on Max Da Costa (Matt Damon), whose dream is "to go up there", but can only be working at Armadyne under the lead of CEO John Carlyle (William Fichtner), creating droids for Elysium. Then, a tragedy occurred, as Max 'accidentally' got contaminated with lethal level of radiation at work and predicted to only have 5 days left to live. He then decided to ask for a help from a local gangster named Spider (Wagner Moura) for a free-ride to Elysium, to get cured using the prestigious med-pod. But the price doesn't come in cheap, as Max has to agree on Spider's terms; to have his entire body harnessed by an exoskeleton that can miraculously boost his power, and to steal (uhm, 'download') any important informations and codes from his former boss's brain, Carlyle of Armadyne. On the other hand, Elysium's very own Armani-fitted Secretary of Defense, Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster) is secretly arranging a truce to take over Elysium, with the help of computer-genius Carlyle and her despicable right-hand bounty hunter agent in earth named Kruger (Sharlto Copley). As both intentions get mixed up and get head-to-head in each other's heels, the story of the riches and the poors begins.

Within 10 minutes out of 109 minutes runtimes, I could easily say that Elysium is nowhere near District 9. There's nothing new in there; it's a little mix of Upside Down's world with Oblivion's futuristic channel. It's predictable and cliché. It's very mediocre. As for the sci-fi aspects (though supported by a good CGI), I don't think there's enough portions of it. Future LA feels like present Mexico City, meanwhile at Elysium you see environments that you could easily see now in Malibu. The advanced technologies are lack of definitions; how could a scanner possibly re-construct a blown-face, evenmore to wake the death? That is outrageous and far too obnoxious. More things to be sorry about, this movie actually has a good start, with a little details given one step at a time, creating a clever introduction and world building, but after a while, the plot suddently gets confusing and turns into what we called a traditional action schemes; battles with upgraded guns, whole lot of explosions, hand-to-fist battle and a little too much downloading. Not to mention, the shaky-cam which turns the action scenes into a dizzy video-game-like battle, all blurry and zoomy. And a big distraction; this movie drift into one purpose to another, while offering endless of mindless action that makes everything goes rather vague or unfocused. The plot goes in three ways : Max trying to save himself, then trying to save his beloved's daughter and later to save the world. Decision decision? And my question remains still : why does the poor have more advanced toys than the rich? Also, did they find a way to vanish the moon?

I like the political touch here. It's smartly built, with the clear future manifestos as in privatised healthcare, immigration barrier, leap of faith, degrading humanity, viral capitalism and huge gap of social-differentiation. I'm just amazed on how Neill brought this issue so vulnerably, unguarded, so exposed. He clearly shows it by calling the poor "illegal" and the rich "legal". Even he makes a language-barrier; those riches speak French and those poors swear in Spanish. Well played there.

I don't really get Damon's role here; aside the scary exoskeleton, he doesn't scream hero. Though Damon plays Max's character well with that muscles and shaved head, I could sense his uncertainties. Max seems to be a person who tries to make the best out of the worst, with the least intention whatsoever. Jodie Foster's Delacourt (I fucking like her accent, so don't mock it!) feels to be all over the place with the awkward and laughable lines. It's highly unfortunate though, if only they let her to be "Jodie Foster" without demanding her to appear evil and cruel. Alice Braga's role as Damon's childhood love, Frey, only works for sugarcoating; a humble nurse trying to save her sick daughter, with no sparks nor chemistry with Damon's Max. I gotta say, there's a lot of second acts that appear to be a huge distraction throughout the whole storylines and sadly to say, they don't really know what they're doing. But if there's one worth to be mentioned is Copley's Kruger. He simply outshines Foster in the villains territory. He's ruthless, a bull, very well-guarded and has the mind of a crazy, and of course with that disgusting accent of him. Well done.

Bottom line, Elysium is just another mainstream sci-fi which tries to play with our wildest imagination but with nothing new to offer. It is still enjoyable all right, but it is also well forgettable. Decide by yourself. 

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