Friday, August 30, 2013
"I don't know if I should go watch Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," I complained to my sometime movie companion on Facebook. "It's only rated 13% on Rotten Tomatoes. But I've read the books and I want to watch it on the big screen," I moaned plaintively. "Go see Elysium," my friend suggested. "It's pretty cool." "Maybe I should watch that instead," I vacillated, and my friend immediately urged: "Yes! Go. Go." So on Saturday afternoon I stood in front of the box office, trying to decide which movie to watch. I finally chose Elysium because I figured the Mortal Instrument screening would be packed seeing as it was opening weekend for the latter whereas I should be able to get great seats for Elysium running in its 3rd or 4th week.
Boy was I to regret it. Elysium is not a bad movie per say, but coming from the director of the sleeper hit District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, I expected something better, and I was disappointed with the results.
The story goes; in the not-too-distant future, Earth has become ravaged and overpopulated. The wealthy elite have migrated to a luxurious space station called Elysium where they own houses with huge lawns and are served by robotic servants, while the rest of the human population are stuck trying to eke a meager living on Earth policed by ruthless robots. Our main character Max De Costa starts out as an orphaned boy who dreams of making it to Elysium one day. As an adult played by Matt Damon, he is an ex-thief and current parolee who works at an assembly that manufactures robots. A work accident leaves him with only 5 days to live, and De Costa is determined to make it to Elysium before then so he can cure himself on one of the Med-Bays that are present in every home in Elysium. Throw in a childhood sweetheart who has a young daughter dying of leukemia and you can pretty much figure out how the plot is going to go.
So there I am in the movie theater, mostly bored as I watch the movie unfold with utter predictability, ironically enough with the plot pushed along by the antics of a crazily unpredictably maniacal villain with no real motivation to speak of.
Matt Damon is decent in the main role, although after he has a powerful exoskeleton fitted into him to help him fight off the robots his character then begins to function almost mechanically and one finds it hard to connect with him. Jodi Foster is terrible as a very one-note villain who is even more robotic than her robotic servants, while Sharlto Copley is baffling as a completely unhinged psychopath.
Most of all though, my disappointment is with director Neill Blomkamp. I was expecting a science fiction movie that was thoughtful and thought-provoking in the vein of his 2009 movie District 9. Instead what we get is a very straightforward action film with twin threads of healthcare and immigration political commentary woven into the story, albeit too simplistically and often relegated to the background by too many empty explosions and action-packed fight scenes, especially in the second half of the movie.
Elysium is not a bad movie by a long shot, but it is not a very good movie either, and more's the pity, because it could have been so much more, and it unfortunately isn't.
2 and a half stars out of 5 stars for me.