Space Station Immigration

Elysium sends border crossing out of orbithttp://www.thereader.com/images/uploads/film.jpg

First things first: Jodie Foster is officially no longer a two-time Oscar winner. There’s no way anyone can do what she just did in Elysium and get to keep golden bookends. Sorry, Jodie, but you were just in a movie where Sharlto Copley gargled a South African accent into unrecognizable madness and somehow your vocal delivery was less believable. We’re going to need at least one of those statues back. Moving on…

Writer/director Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 was, quite simply, a sci-fi masterpiece. It offered a gloriously realized hypothetical world with allegorical implications and more than a drop of blistering effects-based action. Elysium ain’t all that. Far from a sophomore slump, Blomkamp’s second effort leans heavier on general entertainment and mainstream appeal; even his thematic inspiration has broadened from “racial apartheid is reprehensible” to “rich people suck, am I right?” But with action sequences this raw and Copely delivering one of the most gleefully weird sci-fi bad guys in recent memory, this is no outright misfire.

Once more, Blomkamp builds an elaborate, meticulous world. Earth has been polluted up the wazoo, which is the worst place to keep your carbon emissions. Rich people have moved to a low-orbit space station that offers paradise, including “med pods” that cure literally anything. They don’t want the gross mouth-breathers on earth to further overpopulate, so that technology is only available to folks up on Elysium. So when our ex-con hero, Max (Matt Damon), gets buckets of radiation dumped on him, that’s where he’s got to go.

Enlisting the help of his friend Julio (Diego Luna), ex-gal pal Frey (Alice Braga) and the seedy crime lord Spider (Wagner Moura), Max soon finds himself wired into a crazy metal fighting suit with a computer in his brain fighting against a samurai sword-wielding disavowed government agent named Kruger (Copley) with the fate of all humanity resting on his robotically-enhanced shoulders. There’s a kid with leukemia involved and some pretty blatant metaphors about illegal immigration, but what’s more important is Sharlto Copley’s beard.

Elysium is the kind of clunky that comes when a director of a promising smaller film goes big. The character stuff flops and sputters, with Frey and Max feeling more like star-crossed former Craig’s List roommates than soulmates. Foster’s entire unmotivated villainous subplot is almost as unwatchable as her vocal affectations are unlistenable. But anytime former collaborator Copley is on screen, or anytime the action shifts to the forefront, Blomkamp proves his sci-fi game has not fallen off at all.

There’s more to like about Elysium than there is to lament; the inevitable lackluster response has more to do with how great District 9 was than how sturdy this effort is. If this largely engrossing, highly kinetic flick is considered anything other than solid, Blomkamp is the victim of some pretty unfair standards. Here’s hoping it motivates him to deliver something even braver next time.

Grade = B

posted at 04:39 am
on Saturday, August 10th, 2013

COMMENTS

(We're testing Disqus commenting (finally!); please let us know if you have trouble.)

comments powered by Disqus

 

« Previous Page


Just Watch Once

Don’t Think Twice isn’t quite a misfire, but it’s still a bit disappointing after such a promising start. The first half hour or so felt as if it was setting up the best, most original comedy of...

more »


Hard Not to Laika

“Show your work.”

That statement is both an admonition given by rigid mathematics instructors and part of the reason why stop-motion animation continues to captivate. The meticulous, painstaking...

more »


Funny Noir Die

Sporting dialogue hotter than a recently spent shell casing and comedy slightly less dark than a necrophiliac stand-up comedian’s set, The Nice Guys targets a niche audience. Luckily, I am pretty...

more »


You Keep Using That Word…

The word “indignation” is used to describe anger provoked by what is perceived to be unfair treatment…so why is the new film by James Schmaus called Indignation? I know it’s the title of the original...

more »


Kim Jong-Uh Oh

Have you ever asked a friend to take a picture of you, and they forced you to pose for far too long before revealing that they were actually recording video the entire time? It’s a practical joke...

more »







Advanced Search