Saturday, August 10, 2013

Movie Review: Elysium

Anyone remember when films used to be subtle? That they could convey so much, while saying so

Elysium is not one of those films. In fact, it'll probably give you head trauma, after bludgeoning you over and over again with its messages.

The plot (for what it's worth): The year is 2154. Earth is a craphole, overcrowded, filthy, mostly made up of the poor; while the rich have fled to the colony paradise of Elysium. Yeah, you see where this is going... Our protagonist, Bourne Identity, is an ex-con who's just trying to do the right thing, when a mishap at work leaves him with severe radiation poison and only 5 days to live.  

On Elysium are medical pods that can restore anyone to full health. So our protagonist falls back on his shady connections in attempt to reach one of these pods and save his life.

Meanwhile, on Elysium, frigid Jodie Foster is trying to take control of the colony. She enlists the help of a businessman, who is part wealthy ahole and part programer, to write a program that will override Elysium's controls and place her in the president's seat--and apparently, Elysium doesn't believe in backing up its hard drive. There's also a sociopathic secret agent, played by Sharlto Copley (who you might recognize as Wikus from District 9).

And from that point, the plot gets really convoluted and ridiculous. 

Now I enjoyed District 9, despite being slightly heavy-handed. There was at least the story of Wikus trying to be with his wife again, and you cared about all the characters who were involved, even if they looked like giant shrimp.

However, director Neill Blomkamp has completely done away with the allegory this time around, giving us our own gritty reality in sci-fi form. You see, the eeevil rich people are keeping all the heath care to themselves and not sharing it with the poor. So the poor people are forced to sneak into the colony, break into homes, to get access to their rightfully deserved health care...which they did not pay for.

If there's one thing I know as a writer, it's to not force messages down your reader's throat. 'Cause, you know, no one likes it. People just want a good story, something to entertain them for an hour and a half. It's fine if you want social commentary, but it ought to be subtle and not the driving force of your story.

On the one hand, I can appreciate the director for bringing these issues to light. On the other, it irks me that the rich are portrayed in such a cynical light, when some of them do help others; they donate to charities or start charity foundations of their own. Does the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation not ring a bell? 

On the positive side, the sets had a nice authentic feel of sluminess, probably because it was filmed in Mexico. The CGI was great and felt realistic, just like in District 9. Copley gave an awesome, and perhaps most memorable performance (I can't say either Damon or Foster were stretching their acting abilities); he made a very creepy villain that in some scenes made your skin crawl (particularly when he's trying to cozy up to the woman--Ewwww!)

I don't think I can full-heartedly recommend this film. Better to watch Looper and get the same character-arc, but with so much more feeling and less sociopolitical baggage. Also, if you've seen Looper, then you already know how this movie will end. 


  1. Saw it yesterday with my dad, and the ending was my favorite part. District 9 was better on so many levels. I didn't feel like I got to know any of the characters in Elysium, despite the flashbacks. And...I could have used some subtitles for Spider.

  2. Great review. Even though it’s not as good as District 9, it still has plenty action and emotion to keep you going.

    1. I agree about the action, although some parts looked like it came straight from a Call of Duty game, but the only feeling I felt was one of annoyance. I just really don't care for ham-fisted messages.

  3. Hi Siobhan,

    Please send me an email at with an address and Paypal account so we can send you a copy of Conjurings and pay you.


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