Monday, August 26, 2013
3 Thoughts on Elysium
1. It's not nearly as good as it should be - First, I must admit, there is so much awesome in this movie. The man-made "planet" Elysium is spectacular, especially in contrast to the future (but closer to present day than we would like to admit) dystopian Earth (which is frustratingly represented by one city, Los Angeles - which is already, quite possibly, the worst city in the world). The contrasting two worlds are unified by advancing technology and that is where the movie thrives. There is some really cool stuff to look at, memorable imagery, and enthralling concepts of "the future". This being said, I should have left the theater completely thrilled, instead I was extremely disappointed. Science Fiction tales are often allegorical, but I've never seen one that was so obvious, heavy-handed, and worst of all, simple. The whole thing is basically an advertisement for universal healthcare. Plus, the ending doesn't even make sense (**spoiler**- if overpopulation is a problem on Earth, how is the solution to give everyone access to a machine that cures everything - essentially, causing humans to live forever?).
2. Some of the acting is atrocious - Not Matt Damon, of course. He is perfection. My major complaint about the movie is Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley. Seriously, what the fuck were they doing? It was cartoon-ish, distracting and downright awful. Even though Foster hasn't done anything noteworthy, career-wise, in almost 20 years, I would still describe her as a solid actress. Meanwhile, Copley BLEW MY MIND in District 9. So, the terrible acting came as a complete shock. I think, in this case, it's safe to blame the director. It was his choice to have them do this weird, unnatural voice - I have no idea what accent either of them were attempting. I read that Copley's was South African, but that's where he is from, so why did he struggle with it so much? I also read something about Foster's dialogue being altered in post-production, so that could have something to do with the awkwardness. Whatever the reason, it was a terrible decision for the director to make.
3. The comparison - It's not fair to compare this movie to District 9, but it's inevitable. District 9 is writer/director Neill Blomkamp's first feature film and it is stunning. When someone creates something that special and memorable on their first try, it puts a lot of pressure on the follow-up project. Elysium had some great moments and certainly isn't a bad movie, but if I make this inevitable comparison, it's just not in the same atmosphere as District 9. Sure, District 9 had the same sociopolitical undertones, but it was such a great story that the implications of it are interesting, rather than irritating. My second biggest complaint about Elysium is that even though it has an obvious stance on classism and the distribution of wealth, it's actually a bit racist (which is weird since District 9 was overtly about racism). It felt incredibly disingenuous for this movie to preach to an audience about the current state of humanity, while perpetuating the heroic, white, male "savior" character among a sea of minority characters. It makes no sense as to why they all rely on him to save everyone, when they are all clearly capable of achieving the same thing.