Elysium Delivers

10 Aug

Summer is almost over and of all the movies to enjoy in air-conditioned theaters there was an awful lot of trash and a tiny bit of treasure. Elysium is the last of the big, hyped summer films and hovers above the garbage of comic book and sequel movies that overpopulated summer 2013. Here’s my spoiler free, poorly written, stupid review.

Elysium 2

First off I should say that I had mixed feelings about Director Neill Blomkamp’s last movie District 9. I thought that movie was too clunky. It started out with the format of a social documentary, then changed to become an action movie that escalated to ridiculous levels making it more of a video game, only to once again jump to end in the documentary fashion. District 9 looked great and was original and shined a satiric light on political and social topics you don’t see in many movies. And I appreciated all that but the method in which these truncated styles were forced together made the movie to inconsistent for me.

But I am a sucker for giant floating things in space and the impressive visuals of Elysium got me excited. I had to see this one in IMAX. Once I’d walked past the box office and seen that this particular theater had started selling 32 ounce beers since the last time I was here, I knew it was a good day. Elysium wasn’t a perfect movie but if you just want a basic action movie set in a world with great looking robots, spaceships, and an orbiting ringworld habitat to boot, this movie is good entertainment. Matt Damon is an average underdog type who winds up being repeatedly shit on to the extent that he has no choice but to attempt one impossible goal in a short period of time. The plot is pretty simple and details don’t really hold up to logical scrutiny but it is still better than most man vs. the world action stories. The flaws don’t stand out while you’re watching it because it’s a fast flowing ride that doesn’t waste time to let you think. There isn’t too much explanation about why things are, this movie isn’t there to tell you why, it shows you visually. It shows things like Matt Damon kicking ass, shooting crazy guns, crashing space ships, and fighting robots in space. It’s pretty awesome.

The cast is a mixed bag. Jodie Foster is in charge of security for the geostationary gated community. But she is doing some weird Bavarian/British accent that is very unnecessary. It sounds like the character was a waitress at Oktoberfest then got hired as Elysium’s security chief and is trying to make people think she’s Margaret Thatcher. William Fitchtner played the blind guy in Contact and once again his character teams up with Jodie Foster on Elysium. He is great at playing that slime ball you just hate right off the bat. He’s in his element, when he tells his subordinate not to breathe on him you just want to kick him in the mouth, while wearing golf shoes. District 9’s “Wikus” actor is back, this time as “Krugar” who is Jodie Foster’s henchman. He is barking mad with bat shit insane on top. It’s very fun watching his wacky super villain performance plus he has a force field. But really (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) Matt Damon makes this whole movie work. When he’s cracking wise with robots it’s funny and when those robots drop his ass to the ground you pity him. The outlandish situations you have to believe he endures are actually grounded by Damon’s conviction.

Elysium

But the thing that got me to watch this movie were the visuals. They’re spectacular, not in their audacity but in how naturally they seem to exist. The robot enforcers are hard and threatening. The space ships are practical and varied. The views of Earth are gritty like detailed garbage slums while Elysium glistens above. This movie shines in the space porn moments, there’s a shot of Elysium from space over the Earth’s horizon and the special effects people knew to put a distorting effect as the station shows through the earth’s atmosphere. When a missile hits a ship in zero G it doesn’t just explode and disappear like in most movies, all the tiny pieces fly forward and fan out slowly tumbling and twinkling along. The sprawling curvature of Elysium fills the screen with details of homes, lakes, lights, and you just go “Wow”.

One important thing in the movie is that there are these beds that heal anything and everything, they’re only on Elysium. Discussing the movie afterward someone made the point that it didn’t make sense that not even one of these beds was on Earth (I’ve since read this criticism on the internet a lot). I said it made perfect sense “The Aristocracy in space want to go back to Earth but only after most of the poor have died. So they don’t want any of those beds slowing down the die off.” That was never expressly said in the movie but I saw a lot of evidence for it. My point is all sci-fi movies have some nonsense in them, it is part of the genre. So just go along for the ride and you’ll enjoy this one and if the theater serves beer it’ll help.

Carl Wells

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