And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

Elysium

elysium poster 202x300 - ElysiumSet in the year 2154, Elysium is a hero’s tale about one simple man saving the world’s poor from the evil grips of the moneyed elite. The über-rich have moved off earth and live on an idyllic space station known as Elysium, looking down on the earth where the retched poor live a horrid life under the control of all watching ‘droids. Matt Damon plays Max, one of the 99% earthbound masses, who works in an android factory and is just trying to keep keep his head down and stay away from the criminals who he used to run with. But that plan is thrown for a loop when he is the victim of a radioactive industrial accident that will kill him unless he can get up to Elysium and use one of their miraculous medical machines that can cure any and all illnesses. And of course the only ones with the wherewithal to get him there are those bad guys he was trying to stay away from. Damn it!

And then there is Frey (Alice Braga), the girl Max has loved since he was a kid, who is now a saintly nurse with a dying daughter, and Max just happens to run back into her for the first time in many years when he is brought to the hospital early in the movie. And that complicates things later since those perfect health machines up above could save the kid, too. Meanwhile up in the sky, Elysium is not as paradisiacal as its name implies. Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jody Foster) has her eye on the presidency and has teamed up with the man who has the computer codes that rule the world. But before he can deliver the information she needs, since he just happens to be on the earth when the plan is hatched, the code is taken by Max, downloaded into his head actually. Because of his radiation sickness, the crime boss has outfitted him with an exoskeleton that gives him the strength to carry on and has a nice little computer port that goes directly into his brain. So Max and his band of criminal brothers become targets on the run from the ‘droids and operatives Delacourt has dispatched to bring him and the code up to her. Think sci-fi Jason Bourne. He fights, he out-strategizes, he does what’s right.

elysium 6 300x199 - ElysiumNeill Blomkamp wrote and directed Elysium. His first film, District 9, dealt with the same theme, the unfair power relationships between the rich and poor. I think it did a much better job, but what both do well is create a visually convincing world for the moral battle to be played out on. The impoverished earth scenes were actually filmed in the slums of Mexico City. And the space station Elysium could be any of our current playgrounds of the rich and famous: Beverly Hills, Dubai, Saint Tropez. The elite speak alternately in French and what is probably supposed to sound like some future sort of upper-crust English; the poor, in early 21st century vernacular English and Spanish. It is a world without shades of gray. The actors are all fine and the visuals pretty phenomenal, but the film’s heavy-handed and very timely political statements are too close to the surface for me. And there are also quite a few logic problems that take you out of the story. Elysium is entertaining, but there are way too many fight scenes, and I was left wishing the script had been up to the caliber of the visuals.

(And what were they thinking with that accent they gave Jody Foster?)

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