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The International Writers Magazine: Reviews

Director & Writer: Neill Blomkamp
Stars: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga
• Sam Hawksmoor review
Being a big fan of District 9 I approached Elysium with enthusiasm and certainly the look and feel of the movie is ambitious. LA in 2154 is every bit as depressing as one would suspect it will be but sadly it’s pretty standard sci-fi fare that the rich would live apart from this (See Metropolis or Soylent Green for your primer).

The rich live in the sky in a huge space station wheel with its own perfect climate and gravity.  (Some questions needed to be asked about protection from radiation up there  - but it very nicely realized and perfect – as all Utopias should be).  It pleasantly mirrors Tom Cruise’s Oblivion from earlier this year in look and feel, but the ant crawling desperation of LA is all Blomkamp and Sharlto Copley as the villain’s henchman is as unsubtle, abrasive and inhumane as one might expect. 
However there are worrying performances in this mini epic.  Matt Damon from the wayward slum kid to the reformed carjacker just trying to get on with his life in the factory where they make robots that police the slums with brutality is one. He feels out of place here somehow.  Jodie Foster, who as the real villain of the piece, is so brittle it’s hard to relate to her in anyway.  (Some gasps from the audience at her rather odd looking legs).

Matt Damon’s Max gets a lethal dose of radiation at work.  Health & Safety do not seem to have survived the 21st Century and again the oppression in the factory is very rooted in Fritz Lang’s work.  You would think that robots would be manufactured in something approaching clinical surroundings rather than a metal bashing Detroit style factory, but that aside, Max needs to get to Elysium and the medical regenerators within five days or he dies.
Getting to Elysium is hard. You have to steal a shuttle, tattoo fake IDs on your arm and we already saw two shuttles being blown out of the sky so we know the rich aren’t going to put out a welcome mat.
Now, I’m not a doctor, but if you drilled a servo assisted bodysuit into the bones of a man who just received a lethal dose of radiation in extremely unhygienic circumstances, there is a strong likelihood of infection.  Luckily Max seems to recover quite remarkably (he is given some pills by the robot medic that deaden the pain). Even when stabbed and he is treated by his childhood sweetheart Frey – now a nurse, he seems to recover pretty fast.  Lovely Alice Braga (City of God) has the unenviable task of being the love interest, Frey, who has the sick kid, who also needs to get to Elysium or else. 

William Fichtner must be wondering what he did wrong lately to have two strongly unsympatheticic parts in major movies.  The baddie in The Lone Ranger (actually a very funny movie) and the factory boss, Carlyle who cares nothing for his workers in this.  Again, cartoon acting doesn’t lend credibility.  Perhaps actors don’t think that sci-fi deserves real emotions and you just default to stereotypes.    

Elysium There were so many ways this story could have gone.  Perhaps set it earlier as Elysium was being built and everyone realized that they were being left behind, or give us a parallel story about people on Elysium bored out of their minds who are scheming to get back to earth. But for all this effort to just be yet another movie about two guys in enhanced body suits slugging it out as everything is destroyed all around them is just such a damn waste of time.

One feels Blomkamp was leaned on by the suits.  Nothing political, nothing interesting about rich and poor please, no polemics.  Just blow shit up – that’s what audiences want.  Well they don’t.  I sensed the audience was bored – in the way that the remake of Total Recall bored them too.  We want ideas, concepts, surprises – fisticuffs in space is so boring – so normal – so mind numbing.

Filmed in Mexico (standing in for future LA of course) and Vancouver it's a movie that needed a bit more script development but is visually quie stunning.
Meanwhile I for one can’t wait to see Austenland for an antidote.
© Sam Hawksmoor August 22nd 2013
Author of The Repercussions of Tomas D and The Repossession

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