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Movie Breakdown: Elysium (Noah)

August 9, 2013

Film

People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 was a surprise success for all the right reasons. The film was a weighty, well-filmed, exciting action movie with a solid subtext of politics. Blomkamp’s new film Elysium, starring a balding, criminal Matt Damon, seems to aspire to equal parts.

The Reality:

I need to go back and watch District 9. It was a surprise film, a sort of shock that someone out there in the archaic back hallways of the film industry was still making science fiction like it was the 80s heyday. I wonder now though, after spending a few hours with Elysium, if District 9 was a similar brand of heavy-handed, though entertaining, clunk.

In 2154 Earth’s a shit-hole and all of the rich folk have shipped themselves to a spinning wheel in the sky where life is perfect and they can watch Earth’s downward spiral from afar. On Earth Matt Damon plays Max, a former car-thief trying to make amends as a simple, blue collared drone. Bad things happen, Damon gets caught up with a bunch of cyber-coyotes and ends up on Elysium, fucking stuff up.

Blomkamp seems to have eschewed the subtle hand of District 9 for a big-ass piece of metal welded to his stump, as Elysium just hammers you in the face with the poverty and oppression and a wailing Middle Eastern soundtrack. The problem with the film stems from the main concept: on Earth no one can get medical aid (or anything really) but on Elysium the rich have built med-tubes that cure anything and everything. For some reason though, the rich on Elysium don’t want to share the med-tubes with the poor people, they just want to float around in their pools and eat stuffed olives and look serious. They’re evil only for the sake of the plot of the film, and it makes everything feel flimsy and superficial. On a technical level the film is gorgeous and again Blomkamp shows his skill at creating fantastic weaponry and using it with great, gory temerity. Damon is a fantastic everyman, as he always is, managing to imbue a man with super-strength metal armor welded to his skin feel realistic and downright likable. District 9 this is not, but it shows enough originality and genuine love for the medium, that I can’t wait for whatever Mr. Blomkamp does next.

The Lesson:

Number 2 is always hard.

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