Release Date: August 9th, 2013 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Neill Blomkamp Actors: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Emma Tremblay
ith another two hours, “Elysium” might have been able to flesh out the multitude of ideas crammed into its meager borders. The premise is nothing revolutionary, and even highly reminiscent of most dystopian presentations, but still begs to be explored in greater depth. Everything from setup to conclusion is rushed, minimizing the audiences’ ability to connect with the protagonists and their endeavors. Flashbacks provide only vague glimpses at relationships and impactful moments are suppressed from a lack of sufficient buildup. Even the villain is defined just by his rap sheet rather than his screen presence. Despite the shortcomings in plot and character development, “Elysium” excels in its captivating visuals of a future gone awry, with sprawling landscapes of decimated cities playing contrast to the floating paradise in orbit. Too bad an unfulfilling story outweighs even the most alluring imagery.
In the year 2154, Earth has devolved into an overpopulated, polluted wasteland and the richest denizens have fled to the skies to live aboard Elysium, a utopian space station devoid of poverty and disease. When reformed criminal Max (Matt Damon) accidentally receives a lethal dose of radiation at his Armadyne factory job, his only chance for survival is to reach Elysium. Accepting a suicidal mission from underworld kingpin Spider (Wagner Moura) in exchange for a ticket to the orbiting Eden, Max agrees to hijack Armadyne CEO John Carlyle’s (William Fichtner) transport ship and steal valuable financial codes from the magnate. Upon seizing the data, Max realizes he’s stumbled onto information so monumental it could change both worlds forever. With time rapidly expiring, the intrepid warrior must find a way to reach Elysium while outmaneuvering both the head of defense (Jodie Foster) and a deranged assassin (Sharlto Copley) who will stop at nothing to prevent Max from accomplishing his task.
Tackling the exact same themes of current political and economic crises (including immigration and deportation, overpopulation, a disappearing middle class, the medical industry and its price-gouging of better drugs and suppression of great ones, power struggles, and governmental corruption) that his previous film “District 9” examined, director Neill Blomkamp seems to think he can one-up that effort. But his scope is impossibly grand, taking the impoverishment of the world to such futuristic extents that humankind has completely escaped the confines of Earth. Except that the world below Elysium hasn’t advanced all that much (save for a Terminator or Matrix styled premise in which laborers toil over the creation of the very robots that will facilitate oppression and despair) and the city in the sky is tremendously progressive – to the point that its technological capabilities are very much undefined.
Like “Total Recall,” “The Fifth Element,” or “Iron Man” (or any of countless science-fiction adventures), “Elysium” rests the entire salvation of humanity on a single man, unwittingly thrown into a situation that couldn’t be resolved in a thousand years – yet must be solved in the course of a couple of hours. The similarities and comparisons to present-day atrocities take some time to distance themselves enough that the film can even remotely resemble futurism. Even the national defense force of Elysium is still entitled “Homeland Security.” Once the more fitting ideas of exoskeletal enhancements, heat-seeking explosives, and handheld railguns enter the picture, the focus shifts to acts of revenge, the contrived inclusion of a frail woman and child, and operatic cues for repetitive flashbacks and strained poignancy. Even the action sequences are dull, moiling to demonstrate awe through the use of rapid cuts, deafening sound effects, slow motion, and sudden silence. But pizazz is absent when altercations rely on flailing limbs and close-ups that mistakenly use confusion to heighten intensity. It would appear that Blomkamp has proven his sheer shortage of range for theatrical material.
– The Massie Twins