Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Case for Fields Forever

From Neill Blomkamp, the director of District 9, and starring Academy Award Winners Matt Damon and Jodie Forster, comes a new science fiction experience: Elysium

And it’s awful.

Sorry, I tried to like it, really I did, and while it started up slowly and built up an interesting world, it slowly became clear that the story made no sense, and that the director was less interested in a movie with Damon and Foster than putting his star from District 9, Sharlto Copley, at the forefront of the film, even if he was an annoying idiot that no one liked.  The cinematography is equally irritating, with overly-sentimental flashbacks and slow motion action sequences that do nothing but slow the film’s already fairly glacial pace.

On the plus side, the special effects are amazing.

Now for spoilers – you have been warned!

The story concerns Max (Damon) who for some reason gets doused with radiation (why do the robots need to be radiated again?) and ends up with five days to live.  The only cure can be found on the orbiting Elysium space station, to where the rich people fled once the earth became a bit of warm cesspool overrun by Hispanics (there are about two white people besides Damon in California, it appears).  Max dons an power suit to make him stronger and accidentally gets his hands on plans to the death star / Elysium that were originally intended to overwrite the programming of the security robots but actually gives whoever possesses it the ability to override and overwrite all of Elysium’s systems (in very easy English speak too).  Elysium security chief Delacourt (Foster) sends her South African dirty missions specialist Kruger (Copley) to get the information and from there… well, it gets even more stupid.

Foster speaks beautiful French (I am so jealous) so for some reason she is meant to be French in this film, and so speaks English with a strange accent that is highlighted by some hideous dubbing and the fact she seems to lose this accent later in the film.  Damon is stoic and buff and earnest and has almost no real reason to be so determined to get a cure to his condition, but he is an easy leading man to like – so it’s a shame when he is completely sidelined by Copley and becomes almost superfluous to the story, meaning the ending feels completely hollow and devoid of purpose and significance. 

My experience was not heightened by a couple regularly talking next to me for the first 45 minutes of the film, quietened only when I gave them the shush sign to let them know that, yes, other people could hear them.  Still, even once I had admonished them, the film just continued its downward slide.  

On the plus side, I was surprised how early it was when I got out, considering I felt I had seen a movie that was at least two hours long…

Verdict:  For so many reasons, I did not like Elysium: terrible storytelling, an inconsistent (or ill conceived) world, awful camera tricks, unconvincing performances, and the hijacking of the focus from the central characters by a side character I really didn’t like anyway.  It looked incredible, but could have done with a lot of editing and possibly a completely different director.  4 gated communities out of 10.

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