Movie Review: Elysium (2013)

Posted: April 27, 2014 in Drama
Tags: ,


In the year 2154, Los Angeles is a crime-ridden, graffiti-laden slum, where the poor subsist.  The elite citizens of Earth live on Elysium, a satellite rotating above the earth.  Max (Matt Damon) is an ex-convict who works for a company called Armadyne, and suffers radiation poisoning after an industrial accident.  Max has only five days to live, and, and has only one way to survive.  Max must get a flight to Elysium, and spend some time in a Med-Bay, a machine that can cure many of man’s current illnesses.

Max makes a deal with a shady character named Spider (Wagner Moura) who will provide a flight to Elysium in return for a data transfer from someone important on Elysium.  Max chooses to do a data transfer from the CEO of Armadyne, a man named John Carlyle. (William Fichner)  Carlyle has made a deal with Defense Secretary Delacourt, (Jodie Foster) to reboot the servers on Elysium, and install her as president.  Max and Spider succeed in downloading data from Carlyle’s mind, including the plot for a coup, into Max’s mind.  Delacourt orders a mercenary named Kruger (Sharlito Copley) to bring Max to Elysium, alive.  Max has a friend named Frey (Alice Braga) who has a child named Matilta (Emma Trembley) with cancer.  Do they get to go to Elysium with Max?  Does Max save himself? Or does Delacourt get her information back?

I don’t like Elysium.  First off it reminds me of an episode of Star Trek called the “Cloud Minders” where the people on the surface of the planet are miners who service the cloud dwellers.  Los Angeles looks like the post-apocalyptic vision in “Mad Max.”  It doesn’t help that the main character us named Max.  Writer director Neil Blomkamp also borrows from himself in District 9.  Whereas District 9 was a blatantly obvious allegory for apartheid, Elysium is a blatantly obvious analogy for undocumented immigrants. It also would have been helpful to have a backstory.  How did the Earth get to this point?  What do the people left behind do for the people on Elysium?  There was also too many plots and sub-plots going on for my comfort.  The two words, the blue collar ex-con, the Secretary of Defense with a coup plot, the love interest with a daughter with cancer, some of it seemed clichéd. There is a lot of violence and the ending was predictable.  I expected better.

Matt Damon, who I like as an actor, was not suited for this movie.  He can be an action star, as the Bourne movies prove, but he was young, and engaging, and the dialogue suited him.  He was the intellectual action hero.  This movie called for a more conventional action hero, someone like Mel Gibson in his heyday, who could toss out a catchphrase, and then get back to pummeling the villain. Jodie Foster is actually very good as the elitist, power hungry defense secretary.  She even throws in some French to illustrate her elitism.  Sharlito Copley plays a bad guy with not a lot of substance to him.  Not for kids because of many scenes of brutal violence, the adults will grow tired of an unfocused story.

The story is long and slow and takes a long time to come together.  Bad direction by Blomkamp to match the bad writing.

Elysium:  Not exactly a slice of heaven.




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