September 21, 2013

Elysium (2013)

"Set in the year 2154, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds."

Using key plot elements from "Johnny Mnemonic" (1995) and "In Time" (2011) may not be enough for the general public to hate "Elysium", but the "critics" have certainly gone out of their way to bash this movie with those reasons already. Consequently, I have very little to add to their arguments except that I didn't like the predictable self-sacrifice ending either.

What? Have I just ruined the movie for you? Too bad. You've had over a month to watch it, and it's not playing in cinemas now anyway. On top of that, "Elysium" is just another generic sci-fi movie set in a dystopian future which looks good but you've seen dozens of times before. Admittedly, you probably haven't seen one with Jodie Foster's mouth movements out of sync with her words, but that's a dubious bonus which you can now avoid until the DVD is released.

Unlike the "critics" (even though I'm one of them), I'm not going to hate "Elysium" for being aesthetically similar to "District 9" (2009) since it's by the same director, but it's disappointing that poor people (and "prawns") living in scrapyards have become Neill Blomkamp's trademark. As a South African with a bee in his bonnet about apartheid, Blomkamp also seems destined to repeat the same "rich vs. poor" storyline—with the underdogs always representing good—for the rest of his career. Maybe things will change in his next big sci-fi movie "Chappie", but I doubt it.

"Elysium" isn't without some merits, however. It's nicely paced for one thing, and Matt Damon might not be everyone's cup of tea as Max, but he's not bad in the action scenes, even if those scenes are worse than the Bourne trilogy for making it impossible to tell who is doing what to who. He certainly looks the part once all the robotic enhancements have been done to him, although how he managed to get his dirty t-shirt back on afterwards is anyone's guess. I didn't dislike his character, but there's not enough there to feel anything for him either.

"Everything I found out, I wanna forget."

South African Sharlto Copley, on the other hand, steals the show as psycho-mercenary Kruger, albeit with Alice Braga coming a close second by providing splendid eyecandy as Max's former love interest. Both are far more interesting characters than the doomed Max despite being as stereotypically two-dimensional. William Fichtner (aka Sheriff Tom Underlay from the cancelled "Invasion" TV series) has a small, very important (and extremely typecast) role, but is the only other actor worth taking notice of. Everyone else is either just there playing dress-up or in bit parts which are instantly forgettable.

As a sci-fi "popcorn flick", it's not worth reading anything into "Elysium" apart than what's right in front of you. The lapses in logic are so obvious that there wouldn't be a story at all if they didn't exist, but if that's what some people want to waste their time arguing about on blogs and message boards, good luck to them. I must admit that I read a few of the oh-so-serious nerdy debates before writing this review and had a chuckle over them.

There's definitely entertainment to be had here for teenagers or anyone with low-intelligence and expectations who enjoyed "Oblivion" or "Pacific Rim", but having said that, I enjoyed a few of the gorier action scenes too. I'm not ashamed of leaving my brain outside the movie theatre occasionally, especially when I don't have that much interest in the sci-fi genre to begin with.

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