(directed by Neill Blomkamp, 2013)
(*** out of 5)
> A beautiful package, from a potentially great director (whose very first film DISTRICT 9 was nominated for Best Picture), this box office smash is just what everyone said: okay, but no DISTRICT 9. In fact, it’s less than meets the eye.
. The story is recycled, cursory and undistinguished. It’s just the latest in a series of allegorical films extrapolating what will happen if the trend continues and the rich keep getting richer as the poor get more and more marginalized. “Elysiam” is an off-world refuge, a satellite circling a dirty, crowded, violent world where all the uber-rich have fled to insulate themselves from an unpleasant reality. Their lives are happy and ordered but their way of life is totally dependent on the exploitation of desperate laborers on the hapless planet below. (UPSIDE-DOWN had exactly this same theme, but was a far more successful film.)
. As a child, Matt Damon’s character always planned to someday save enough money to move up into the sky with the shiny happy people of Elysium. But his station in life is fixed, the bottom rungs to the ladder of success have been removed to keep the clamoring masses safely at bay. (Sound familiar?) Then, a lethal dose of radiation starts the clock running: if he cannot make it to the sanctuary of Elysiam in five days, where all disease and injury can be summarily cured, he will die.
. It all sounds so much better than it is. The plotting is so predictable it feels like screenwriting by committee. The fight scenes were just awful really, because half-assed editing meant to approximate “brutal frenzy” was more annoying than exciting. It was just damn hard to follow the action. Jodi Foster as the Ice Bitch who runs Elysiam’s security apparatus with a ruthless and murderous hand, fares very poorly indeed. For such a fine actress, she really sucks here! Again, she looks great, but her on-again-off-again half-hearted accent is so phony as to be laughable. When her bad guy finally gets her comeuppance we are more happy to be rid of her bad performance than to be rid of the nasty villain. The real star here is the production design, which is uniformly stunning to behold, just as previews promise.
. All this is just what I expected, but I do love sci-fi and felt it was worth it so see this visually dazzling film on a big screen… on somebody else’s dime. (Thanks Dan & Victoria!)
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