Elysium

Summary:

It’s undeniable that Elysium is an entertaining movie, but there are a few glaring flaws that are holding it back. Visually it’s imaginative and impressive, but narratively speaking it’s bogged down. There’s a degree of disbelief that needs to be suspended for the story to function, in particular with the technology. When District 9 set such a high bar for Blomkamp it’s only inevitable that the comparisons would be drawn between the two but for what it’s worth Elysium still manages to be deserving of its own merits. Action scenes are incredibly well down and feature some incredibly tense moments. Sharlto Copley’s Krueger is one of the film’s stand out characters. His motives may not always be clear but his warped sense of righteous makes him one of the film’s more chaotic and fun characters. Overall it’s ambitious, fun, and thrilling with just enough loud and explosive entertainment to be enjoyed at the theaters.

Boasting a line up that featured Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel, Pacific Rim and many more, the 2013 summer season seemed like it was shaping up to be a summer to remember. However, looking back it seems as though the ongoing theme with this summer has been slight letdowns. Although some of the better movies like Star Trek and Iron Man were undeniably entertaining, it’s hard to look past their glaring flaws leaving the overall experience hollow. Disappointments aside I still had high hopes for Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi epic, Elysium, to help redeem this otherwise flat summer. Unfortunately, it’s not the out of the park hit I was hoping for, but it’s probably one of the more ambitious films of the season.

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Elysium tells the story of a divided society. The wealthy live a luxurious lifestyle free from sickness on the space station, Elysium, while the poor and famished live on an overpopulated Earth. When a man named Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) suffers a severe radiation exposure at work his only chance at survival is to reach a med-bay located on Elysium. With nothing left to lose, Max is placed in a position that can bring about equality to both the inhabitants of Earth and Elysium.

It’s undeniable that Elysium is an entertaining movie, but much like Star Trek or Iron Man there are a few glaring flaws that are holding it back. Visually it’s imaginative and impressive, but narratively speaking it’s bogged down. The political commentary lacks the subtlety that made District 9 a hit, and often times is so heavy handed that it feels forced or overdramatic. Characters are simple and lacking an interesting amount of depth to them, of which the biggest offender is Jodi Foster’s character Delacourt. There’s something about Foster’s delivery that is off putting and unnatural that it hurts her characters commanding persona. It works sometimes but more times than not it takes me out of the film. There’s also a degree of disbelief that needs to be suspended for the story to function, in particular with the technology. There’s a lack of exploration for such an interesting society and world.

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The amount of time we get to spend on Elysium itself is incredibly limited and spent more in the underground command centers than on the surface. The daily lives of the Elysium citizens are reduced to a couple of shots of fancy parties and the occasionally reaction shot of scared citizens running away. The film tells more than it shows about the contrasting lifestyles of Elysium and Earth. Some of the more interesting tech in Elysium is seemingly glossed over as well, especially with the security droids who conveniently appear and disappear with no real threatening presence. Max’s exo-skeleton enhancement also seems to vary on effectiveness, especially when in some scenes he seems to possess super strength, and in other’s he struggles in hand-to-hand combat. Things like the med-bays lack a satisfying reason on why they’re seemingly only available on Elysium, and only raises further questions given the film’s ending.

Major Spoilers

At the end of the film Max sacrifices himself to upload information from his brain that will reboot the entire space station, granting everyone back on earth citizenship to Elysium.  In doing so space ships filled with med-bays are activated and sent to Earth to start healing everyone. If these med-bays were so readily available to send down what was stopping them before? If it was a matter of the politicians on Elysium not willing to spend the resources then why were all these med-bays created and waiting on stand-by to be deployed especially if seemingly everyone on Elysium has a personal med-bay in their homes? What was so special about the med-bays that they can only be used on Elysium or by the wealthy, especially if the main factory is located on Earth? Granted these are very nit picky questions but an explanation of some sort would have been appreciated, and definitely given more weight to the story.

End Major Spoilers

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Negatives aside there are still aspects to enjoy here. Elysium sports some incredibly tense action scenes that are wonderfully done. The occasional shaky cam can ruin some scenes but it works more often than not. There’s an almost video game like feel to some of the action scenes which can be a bit of a turn off depending on the person but personally I found it to be entertaining in the way the camera would follow the characters. I mentioned that security droids were disappointing in their wavering presence but when they were on screen they were definitely spectacular. The CGI was incredibly well done and the way that the droids carried themselves was satisfyingly life like. The movie is also incredibly brutal in its death scenes. It’s not over the top in every scene but it’s always unnerving when it happens. Sadly we don’t get to explore the imaginative weaponry quite like we did in District 9 but what is shown is satisfyingly loud and explosive.

Krueger

For the most part the cast does a wonderful job with what they got. Their characters might not be the most complex characters in a movie but they serve enough to get the job done. In particular Sharlto Copley is a personal show stealer with his incredibly deranged character, Kruger. Krueger is a devious mercenary that is often used by Delecourt to do her dirty work. His psychotic pleasure in killing and blowing up everything around him is the audience’s pleasure in entertainment. Copley brings the perfect amount of crazy to the screen without being so overbearing that he can’t be taken seriously. His motives may not always be clear but his warped sense of righteous makes him one of the film’s more chaotic and fun characters.

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When District 9 set such a high bar for Blomkamp it’s only inevitable that the comparisons would be drawn between the two but for what it’s worth Elysium still manages to be deserving of its own merits. The world imagined is incredibly interesting and I think wanting to know more is a great problem to have. It may not deliver a wholly satisfying experience on its own but there are enough nuggets of greatness to enjoy here. It’s ambitious, fun, and thrilling with enough loud and explosive entertainment to be enjoyed at the theaters. Over hyping may have been a contributing factor here to the wanting feeling I walked away with, something that can be said for a lot of the movies this summer, but given the ability to take the movie at face value Elysium is incredibly entertaining.

It’s undeniable that Elysium is an entertaining movie, but there are a few glaring flaws that are holding it back. Visually it’s spectacular and impressive, but narratively speaking it’s bogged down. There’s a degree of disbelief that needs to be suspended for the story to function, in particular with the technology. When District 9 set such a high bar for Blomkamp it’s only inevitable that the comparisons would be drawn between the two but for what it’s worth Elysium still manages to be deserving of its own merits. Action scenes are incredibly well down and feature some incredibly tense moments. Sharlto Copley’s Krueger is one of the film’s stand out characters. His motives may not always be clear but his warped sense of righteous makes him one of the film’s more chaotic and fun characters. Overall it’s ambitious, fun, and thrilling with just enough loud and explosive entertainment to be enjoyed at the theaters.

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3 responses to “Elysium

  1. Pingback: Movie Monday Update Week of August 12th | Thinking Cinematic

  2. I saw a test screening of this movie about a year ago. In the original ending, everyone is suddenly a citizen of Elysium. Then all the poor and sick pour into numerous space-worthy junker shuttles (that everyone seemed to have hidden in their backyards and fueled up) and fly up to Elysium and invade the home-based med-bays. Also Spider hacks his way into becoming President of Elysium (!)

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