Elysium: Neil Blomkamp Can’t Get Beyond the Human Meld

Posted: August 13, 2013 in Movies


Elysium expands the race politics explored in District 9 (Neil Blomkamp’s  pop parable about Apartheid that neatly inverted black and white and us and them stereotypes into a Sci-Fi agitprop given a nice sprinkling of satire) to an up there (the rich 1% living in a shielded, heavily militarized skylab- Elysium- transformed into one of those utopias just ripe for the downfalling) vs down here (the other 99% living in the heavy Hispanic slum known as Earth Los Angeles, filled with sweat shop overlords and assorted envious but good minded gangs) mentality– in other words,  America is no different from South Africa.  Matt Damon plays Max Costa, the would be hero waiting for a cause to meld his spine into a Terminator cache of hydraulic weaponry– initially to save his radiation ridden self but later given a chance to play martyr to the woman he loves and the poor little sick girl who is her daughter, and in one of those reversals that Blomkamps loves pouring into his movies,  Sharlto Coply the star of District 9, is the highly mechanized weaponized villain with the impenetrable South African accent.  The cure for everything is up there, in Elysium, and all you have to do is get through Jodi Foster military defender (speaking with a Universal accent that drifts off into every foreign accent villainized in action and sci-fi movies in the last five years), a bunch of military mechs, some force fields and a forming coup initiated by Ms Uber Foster– and Foster is not even the real villain of the movie. Whenever a director subs a mean intelligent villain for a just meaner one, it is always a mistake that leads to the early disappointing death of bad girl one and an undeserved twenty minutes of action for bad boy two who should have met his demise forty minutes earlier.  The action is a kind of Bourne fuzz (Damon also stared in most of the Bourne films until the recent Jeremy Renner starring and Tony Gilroy scripted and directed The Bourne Legacy neutered the whole franchise in sci-political jargon and chases too low stakes to mean anything) that chops it up, slows it down and then soft focus and blacks it out it a way that made me wonder if the projector was breaking down.  Sure it can be argued that all cinema sci-fi with an action tinge exists to show how mankind can screw things up but that is also true of promising directors given a bigger sophomore budget.   Elysium gets a B-.   

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