ELYSIUM is big on action, falls short on expectations and potential

The trailer for “Elysium” sold me on a great sci-fi action drama however I spent $9 on a matinee to find out I was sold a broken dream with empty promises.

Promotion for the movie had a lot of great selling points:

  • Matt Damon and Jodie Foster (returning to headline role)
  • “District 9” like feel and gravitas; that movie was a true epic sci-fi film and it was awesome
  • Awesome visuals and cool used-future technology aesthetic
  • Storyline about class divide. I’m here for all that!

Then I saw the movie and the movie did not deliver there at all. There are so many loose ends to the great ideas presented that the movie feels extremely incomplete. It would be a complete wash, but the action is on point that it is in fact watchable.

The loose ends come from these questions:

When the world became overpopulated, why was Elysium created?

How did the class divide widen so much as to create a space station orbiting Earth?

Why do that instead of building domes on the planet — it worked in various other sci-fi and in Japanese animation.

Jodie Foster plays the defense secretary of Elysium that never gets out of first gear because we never learn why she’s so driven to keep the regular humans out of Elysium.  Then late in the film a single scene seems to undo her character’s foundation and largely you won’t care about it. We don’t even know about if other citizens of Elysium feel the same.

How do people on Elysium actually live, when you know, they’re not always at a gathering with wine and where everything built, including most of the people, are white? There are brief scenes hinting to the structure of this new society that still has a number of human flaws despite the utopia created. This would have been great to explore and contrast to how things have fallen apart or even function better on the crapsack Earth despite the surroundings.

I did not get enough from this movie like I did “District 9.” (Ed. note: I will refer to that movie a lot because they are so similar — same director and all that jazz has to do with it too). I think of that movie in comparison because ELYSIUM comes across as narrative regression. I feel like when you handle big issues like social divide, allegory isn’t enough. It helps to provide why and how, especially in my opinion for science fiction because if it is supposed to be more or less possible in our world, we need a reason to invest into it emotionally and intellectually when we see it.

“There are so many loose ends to the great ideas presented that the movie feels extremely incomplete.”

For example, some characters break into homes on Elysium and nobody is around nor is there a security system. Where are the citizens? Are they at a tea party? Are they complaining to their leaders in panic or near revolting that their likely hundreds of millions or billions of dollars are seemingly wasted on a space station that anyone with a space ship can just fly into and land? It’s also laughably easy to get into people’s homes too. I’ve seen apartments in the hood more fortified. But don’t worry, the movie isn’t all bad like I said.

The action scenes are something very special so director Neill Blomkamp took ten steps forward with the chaos and increased the gore to earn the R-rating. Like you’ll see heads rip in half, dismemberment, and a few total body explosions. The action reminds me of some video games like “Halo” or “Killzone,” and it is where the movie really shines.

Matt Damon is convincing as an ex-con who goes takes on an exo-suit of mech making him strong enough to tear the robotic police force apart by hand — which is really cool. Sharlto Copely (he was the main guy in “District 9” and played in “The A-Team” remake as Murdock which is also pretty entertaining if you catch it on TV these days) played the “dragon” to Foster’s politician/dictator wannabe. He acts it well and is a real menace and bastard but AGAIN why does he do what he does — especially at the end? What does he gain? The full extent of his plan is not totally thought through either, almost like the plot of this movie.

The plot moves from point A to B with flashbacks C, D, and E to put weight on current happenings and to that linear path it works however when looking at “District 9” and all of its complexities, I think the movie missed some opportunities to be great.

DISTRICT 9 (last note, I promise) told us HOW the aliens arrived, WHY Earth put them in concentration camps, WHAT people on Earth thought of the aliens, WHERE the events take place that makes what happens to the aliens all the more impact (species/race divide and profiling with government authorized murder in South Africa… go figure). We saw WHO the aliens are in their day-to-day lives as their society lacked structure since arriving on Earth.

So I see ELYSIUM and it did not live up to my expectations. What we did get was a good enough movie snack though.


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