‘Elysium:’ Ehhhhlysium

District 9 is so good. So. Good. That’s why I gave Elysium a shot. I was afraid going in that Elysium would be a cheap knock-off of a brilliant first film, the kind that can only result when a hot, new director is suddenly handed millions upon millions of dollars. But I do have to hand it to Neill Blomkamp on several points. For a big action film, Elysium is still dusty, dirty, and bloody. Yes, there are unnecessary special effect-y laser beams and things, and it is approximately forty-five minutes too long, but you see inside a skull and a dude’s face gets blown off. So, you know. It’s kind of okay.

Its biggest problem, though, is that it’s boring. It’s not a new story. In the future, 2154 to be exact, the city of Los Angeles looks only slightly shittier than it does now, and the wealthiest people have fled Earth. They live on a pristine, idyllic space station called Elysium, where everyone is a teensy bit robotic and vaguely, inarticulately European. No one on Elysium is ever sick or old or sad or happy. A regular guy, Max (Matt Damon), has always dreamed of getting there, and now, due to an accident at work, he has little left to lose. He agrees to take part in a dangerous mission that could save a bunch of people’s lives, including his own as well as, of course, the life of the daughter of his childhood friend, an Attractive Woman (Alice Braga…her character has a name, it’s Frey, but that’s about all she has).

Jodie Foster plays an ice queen of an Elysium political figurehead, a ruthless and ambitious leader who has no sympathy for those of Earth, the lower class. She’s pretty weird; her character is out to rule the world, but it seems like she really doesn’t know what she’s doing. I suppose this is why Matt Damon and his friends are able to cause so much trouble. But there’s also a psychotic, bearded guy who works for the military of Elysium but also kind of doesn’t, and he is played by Sharlto Copley, who was in District 9. Sharlto is the best thing about Elysium. He’s a true madman, and though the purpose he serves in terms of the plot is fishy at best, the movie would have been way more doomed without his presence.

The plot is hazy and the action is too dull to make up for it, save for the one or two facesplosions. There are a couple, flickering moments where it’s clear that Blomkamp can write, that his characters were something, at least in draft number one of the script. It must have been draft two in which their personalities were replaced with space punches. Damon is lumbering and brooding and that’s about it. Foster is pointy and pointless. Copley kills it, and Wagner Moura is fantastic as Spider, the man with the plan, the guy with the ships to Elysium, and the mastermind behind Max’s robot exoskeleton. Also, Diego Luna is in it, and he has pigtails, so that’s fun.

Blomkamp is no doubt talented. He got bogged down in sci-fi expectations and for some reason stifled the urge to take risks. Elysium isn’t worth it, but I have not yet lost faith in the Blom.

Grade: B-

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