Elysium Review: Too Little Humanity on Both Worlds

Photo Credit:http://insidemovies.ew.com/2013/08/11/box-office-report-elysium-were-the-millers/

Elysium should have been the best movie of the summer. Political themes relevant to our times. Matt Damon returning as an action hero. Gorgeous special effects. But alas, it appears director Neill Blomkamp has hit a sophomore slump.

The great things about Elysium feel strung together by such mediocrity that the whole just never fully comes together.

It’s the year 2154. Earth has been deemed too polluted for the privileged to bear it any longer. So they vacate to Elysium, a space station straight out of video games like Halo and Mass Effect that has machines in every home capable of curing cancer.

Meanwhile, the rest (as in the 99%) live on our dying planet, wearing clothes and driving cars from 2013 (like the poor kids who still had flip phones heading into 2008). That includes Max (Matt Damon), a poor soul stuck on gangster controlled Earth who constantly finds himself in trouble with the law, controlled by the cartoonish, robotic politicians on Elysium (Jodie Foster gives an uncharacteristically wooden performance).

After an accident at work, Max finds out he’s dying, and begs local gangster Spider (Wagner Moura) to send him to the utopia above. This is when things get more interesting. Through forgettable and uninteresting events, Max has gained the ability to override the entire Elysium system, giving everyone access to the advanced medical technology and more suitable society.

But the script fails to give Max any true ties to the fate of the class structure. Of course, there is a half-hearted attempt with, eye-roll, a woman and her daughter. But Max’s fight still never feels personal, despite Damon’s fine performance.

That’s the main problem with Elysium, a lack of any connection. As we are introduced to Earth and Elysium, the realism is abandoned for exaggerations of everyone’s worst 1% nightmare. Blomkamp’s last feature, Best Picture nominee District 9, felt real because it didn’t make the alien concentration camps as black and white as the class structure here. There were a lot of complex issues at play there, but here it is divided by rich and poor. Some may argue that in these times that’s how they see society anyway. For them, Elysium should work beautifully.

But for those who truly wish to relate this film’s political undertones to our society, there are too few connections.

Still, the idea of the divide between rich and poor blurring a bit is compelling. The last 45 minutes of the film finally get to the fight for a fairer class structure. The action here is well shot and executed, while the politics of the fight finally feel less exaggerated.

That is partially due to the villain known as Kruger (Sharlto Copley), who’s association with Elysium is never really clear. He appears to have everything and nothing, with Copley chewing every inch of scenery he can. This is a fascinating man to watch in this climate, and he is the best thing about the film.

Once again, however, there is no connection. Elysium is proof that a film needs a little more than political undertones and beautiful scenery to be successful. In the meantime, I await the District 9 sequel. Grade: C+

By Matt Dougherty

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