A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Bring Me The Bone Saw | ELYSIUM

In action, sci-fi on August 12, 2013 at 8:50 am

ElysiumDamonBigPosterNew590JuneNeill Blomkamp made the best sci-fi movie of 2009. A year not wanting for sci-fi fare. AVATAR, STAR TREK, MOON, and THE BOX, having all made waves in one way or another.  But, for me, DISTRICT 9 gave us a new face, and model in science-fiction. So, it was with much anticipation I looked forward to the new movie starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, and Sharlto Copley.

Overall, I definitely feel Elysium is a lesser movie than District 9. There was a rawness, and an acceptance to using their limited resources to the absolute limit. And the one thing that makes it stand above Elysium is the fact that it’s set in a “real world,” where characters aren’t predetermined to be heroes. And that is my second biggest gripe with Elysium; the hackneyed wedging of the Hero’s Journey that is placed on Matt Damon’s Max DeCosta… We know from the beginning when the nun at the orphanage that Max grows up in tells a young Max he was born for something special; he’s going to be our newly annointed “chosen one”. The movie loses that point for a long time, which allowed me to fall neck-deep into the movie and forget about that, but is then brought back again at the end. Giving us a needless set of flashbacks to reinforce something that A) we, the audience, are able to understand without being “told”; and B) the story works so much better when the actions are human-based and not the hand of a mysterious being (more than God, it’s the hand of the writer and director.) that creates the fate of the characters.

That was the appealing thing about District 9, none of the action felt like it was “meant to be” for those characters. It was all chaos and poor choice – and in some cases poetic justice. But, Copley’s Wikus isn’t built up to be a chosen one to save the Aliens. He’s a schlub that thinks he knows better than everyone else and only opens his eyes when he’s placed in the “Prawns'” shoes.

Max DeCosta, spending the beginning of the movie as a real character that is trying to separate himself from his past. Plays with neighborhood kids that beg him for money; politely shrugs off the former criminal element that he used to run with, and through a moment of serendipity runs into his old childhood friend (played by Alice Braga). The only character that has gotten this much depth to them this Summer (in the big action fare), has been Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.

The other bigger gripe is a subjective effect used to highlight a couple of action sequences. They’re awkward and don’t do anything to play into the plot. At first I thought it was actually the projector messing up. Despite these two quibbles, I quite enjoyed the movie. The detail-rich production design shines from the use of a grubby Mexico City as a 22nd century Los Angeles, to the small vanity scarification that the rich people of Elysium place on their cheeks, really draw me into the world. There’s even a moment that set my mind reeling at the idea of what cartoons would be like in that kind of future. The humor and demeanor of Damon made me empathize with his character – going from drawing on his Will Hunting charm, to a cybernetic-enhanced Jason Bourne – helped ground the story. Copley, unfortunately doesn’t quite hold his own as the villain Kruger. Visually he looks great, but it’s a little too much “legend building” based on the relationship between him and Blomkamp, and he just never quite came to life for me. Despite my enjoyment of some of his character choices.

Foster, the only other major character, also has some fun in her role as a muckity-muck on the orbital paradise. She speaks mostly in French (the language of the rich in the future, whereas everyone on Earth is seemingly left to speak Spanish), or in an affected accent that makes the people of Elysium just slightly alien.

The last thing to really say about the movie is how I loved getting an adult, R-rated movie that takes its cartoon violence one step further by showing the repercussions. You don’t spray bullets without a person being ripped to shreds. You don’t set off a grenade in a confined space without blowing off someone’s face.

ELYSIUM is not the great sci-fi movie of 2013, but it is an entertaining look into the future. Its plot comments on the ideas of separating the rich from the poor, the withholding and inequity of resources provided to people, but doesn’t go over-the-top (despite most critics seeming to solely focus on that), and left me feeling that I have seen the one adult action movie of the Summer.

Definitely check it out.

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