I apologize for the delay on this, I watched this film Thursday night and it took me this long to settle on what I needed to say about it. If you are worried about the girl who won’t shut up about movies having to figure out what to say about this one; you should be.
This is Writer and Director Neill Blomkamp’s sophomore effort in the US. Most people remember the Peter Jackson produced (that means he was the money) District 9. A not so subtle story about the effects of racism in his native country of South Africa using aliens and humans as the opposing races. While many Americans that I know of derided the movie for it’s obvious themes and what appeared to be a “why now?” mindset. What those individuals forget is that while the laws against segregation were enacted within the US in 1964 it wasn’t for another 30 years until they were put into place in his country until 1994. Thats right, everyone reading this review was alive then. It was only 19 years ago (15 when District 9 came out); so it was fresh in his memory and his countries memory not something told in history books and hundreds of movies since.
This may seem like a long diatribe on history and this director without point, but I swear I have one. It’s that he has gone back to what the best of Science Fiction used to do; which is focus on social or current issues framing it in an alternate world that provokes thought and with a bit of luck awareness. So while films like District 9 and comics like X- men (originally) focused on racism, Elysium and other films in the sci fi and horror genre are beginning to focus on a new *ism*, class-ism.
But do they do it well?
That’s the question that kept me silent and wondering on this one. The answer I am afraid is *No*. While Elysium sets up a dystopian future with clear lines between the haves and the have nots, it doesn’t really do anything with it in a meaningful way. No one learns anything, no one evolves. While the plot lines introduced in the movie are resolved in a nice tidy bow, the only lessons the film teaches us:
If you are amoral – you will die If you are a have not – you will suffer first, then die. The only way the Have Nots can achieve what the Haves have (sounds weird), is through violence, treachery and few Haves wanting more and making a well timed mistake.
From a storytelling perspective, the movie does nothing new. If you saw the recent Total Recall remake (it is not as bad as people say), you have watched Elysium. Don’t believe me? While I normally remain spoiler free I feel that I must provide some synopsis that may contain spoilers.
Try this: A blue collar man who works on the robotic line that makes the robot police that keep him and the rest of the low class oppressed rises up and through violence and criminal amoral acts with the inspirational help a woman who loves him and reaches the other side of the world, while being hunted by a terminator esque force, where the Rich live and brings down the threat of oppression allowing his people, the poor working class to be free and live happily.
Another one? Johnny Mnemonic. Don’t boo, it has nostalgia value and is highly entertaining in the cyberpunk genre.
A man with a dubious and somewhat criminal history has data that can save the world implanted in his head. Rather than wanting to save the world, he wants nothing but to save himself. The people who like the world just the way it is dispatch a terminator esque creature to stop him from reaching a resistance that he is being guided to by a woman who cares for him. In the end to save his own life and those of the people around him he goes for broke and manages to use whats in his head to save the underclass citizens of the world.
Both of these synopsis just describe Elysium. WHile there are different effects, different characters, filming styles, etc Elysium adds nothing truly new other than a medical McGuffin that everyone wants. The acting is fine, the actors themselves are fine even if they are playing two dimensional stereotypes we have seen before.
STOP. WITH. THE. SHAKY. CAM.
I wanted to watch the fights and I couldn’t because the camera man was clearly involved in a 7.0 earthquake at the time of filming. I want to hunt the inventor of shaky cam to the ends of the earth for it.
WHile Elysium isn’t bad, I wasn’t really entertained except for a few moments of the film. Matt Damon and Sharlto COpley are all that save this from being a bad movie.
Matinée it if you must, skip it entirely if you mustn’t.
This movie doesn’t have a chance of overriding the system.