Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley
Review Written By: Michael Dalton (Prime Minister)
"If you want me to make you feel something, that's not hard. I'll choke a kitten in front of you, and you'll feel something"
Elysium begins with striking imagery of Earth and the film’s titular space station, with an intriguing and engaging establishment of its promising concept. However the film is unfortunately never as exciting again. Whilst I find constantly comparing this effort to District 9 a rather unfair thing to do, this is not a sequel to that film and deserves to be judged individually, it is also an inevitable thing to do. While District 9 had equally unsubtle themes, it was much more subtle elsewhere, particularly regarding its characters and emotion. In Elysium, Blomkamp’s script has an emotional through line which does not work, two dimensional, cartoony characters and is rather lazy and cheap in the way in which it goes about garnering audience sympathy, perhaps the new ‘choking the cat’ is, the little girl with Leukemia.
Visually, as you would expect, Elysium is an incredibly accomplished film. The visual effects are top notch and while his script writing skills appear weaker this time around, Blomkamp is still an adept visual filmmaker who is able to create tangible and believable futuristic worlds. It is rather unfortunate then, that the world he so expertly visually constructs, is nowhere near as well or as thoroughly explored as it could have been. The titular space station is hardly examined in the film beyond the rather silly backroom political tussling going on with Jodie Foster. While this would have been fine if the film had purely been from an Earth perspective for the majority of its running time and built up mystery and anticipation regarding the nature of Elysium, this film is not going for that approach. Instead we are treated to the same running overhead shots of pools, houses and gardens. The shot of a young boy looking up into the sky and seeing the space station is a memorable image and a striking visual metaphor, on which you could build a film around, however unfortunately too much clouds what could and should have been a much simpler film.
The ‘love’ story between Max and Frey (Played by Alice Braga) is very cheesy and poorly done. There is never any sense of chemistry or emotion between the two and it comes across as incredibly forced and underdeveloped. This becomes an even bigger crime when come the film’s conclusion it attempts to end on some sort of emotional crescendo with that aspect of the plot key to it. A potentially powerful ending, ruined by a forced, unsubtle and cheesy inclusion…perhaps then apt as it reads like a microcosm for the film itself. In District 9, the film’s love aspect is given much less time and is much more underdeveloped than the one in Elysium, yet, due to the subtlety of a single moment come that film’s conclusion, is much more powerful. So powerful in fact that I felt confident in saying one could look at the film as a tragic love story.
Additionally, this film was quite disappointingly lazy, cheap and exploitative in how it attempted to manipulate audience emotion. As if scared that the protagonist of Max was too selfish, why not give the forced love interest a little daughter with Leukemia? Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate little girls with leukemia, who could? And therein lies the point I am making. Once again, District 9 had a protagonist who is merely out for himself, not concerned with the potentially larger consequences of his actions who ended up helping in that film, a father and a son, yet Blomkamp never felt the need to handicap them in such an exploitative manner. Admittedly, this is a different story from District 9 with healthcare being an allegorical aspect absent from District 9. However the point is, this film unoriginally regurgitates many beats and story elements from District 9 in a much more conventional and unsubtle manner. This suggests that perhaps the co-writer on that film, Terri Tatchell, was the secret ingredient behind that film’s success and is much missed here.
While the film’s visual presentation is refreshingly and thankfully two-dimensional, unfortunately so are the characters. Max is quite a boring protagonist in truth, and does not have the personality, nor is he as well rounded or developed as District 9’s Wikus Van Der Merwe. Speaking of which, the man who played that character, Sharlto Copley, is back here as the villainous Kruger. Copley gives what is the film’s best and most entertaining performance. It is one that demonstrates what a great actor he is as the deranged and dangerous Kruger is worlds away from the bumbling Wikus. It is over the top and cartoony yet in an enjoyable rather than detrimental manner, as well as being a charismatic, entertaining and memorable presence. Jodie Foster doesn’t land much of an impact as Delacourt, not necessarily her fault however as she is given little to work with.
However despite a forced, hollow, cheesy emotional through-line, exploitative emotion, a lack of exploration and cartoony characters, Elysium is not a bad film. It is engaging from start to finish, it’s visually impressive and certainly has too much going for it to be labeled a bad film. It is however a disappointing film and one that could have been so much better with a more refined screenplay.
Movie Parliament Rating: Fringe Party
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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