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Elysium (2013) Movie Review

August 10, 2013
Even though I didn’t particularly like everything about “District 9” I recognized the elements that led some Hollywood executive to give the director, Neill Blomkamp, money to make a big budget action movie. His mech fights showed us a different side of the science-fiction spectacle movie, specifically mechanical effects that looked really cool. I was hesitant coming into “Elysium” but I am now more convinced that Blomkamp has skills as a director. He also has a great eye for special effects and action sequences but would do well to bring in a writer to help him on his next movie.

Given the obvious social commentary in “District 9” I was not surprised by the social commentary dripping off the “Elysium” trailer. I am not convinced much by the message “Elysium” pushes, so perhaps that was what kept me from liking the movie more than I do.

In the future presented in “Elysium”, earth is an overpopulated slum. Anyone with enough money to escape lives in a separate orbiting habitat called Elysium where they have a machine capable of curing people of any illness. It appears as if there is no cost to running these machines and yet the citizens of Elysium keep these to themselves. In order for the machine to even function to cure someone from Earth, it must be tricked with a fake Elysium ID.

Matt Damon plays a worker living on Earth who becomes terminally ill through an accident at work and decides to fight his way to Elysium at all costs so that he can be cured. We are treated to some exciting action sequences as he fights the people sent by Elysium to stop him. “Elysium” is one of the more gory action films I’ve seen in recent years, although the action sequences are relatively short. People are blown to bits on screen a number of times in detailed ways that you rarely see on screen these days. The fight scenes are impressive and include a fight scene between two people in exoskeletons that make them extra strong.

Ryan Amon wrote a pounding rhythmic action score for “Elysium” that blends orchestra with synthesizers. The music is a typical modern action score complete with wailing woman, heavy horns, and string ostinati. It does its job with the film and fits with its futuristic setting but doesn’t really stick with you after the film.

Though I enjoyed the movie overall, there were a few things that bothered me. For one, there were a few spots where characters behaved so stupidly that you could tell they it was only so that certain plot elements could work out. I won’t bother explaining these in detail but this is why I suggest that Blomkamp should hire a writer. Still, the most glaring annoyance with the film involves the medical machines. Though there is no apparent cost to using them, nobody on “Elysium” bothers to offer access to the people of Earth. This could simply be attributed to their lack of caring for the poor unwashed masses of Earth, but it also doesn’t seem to be in their best interests to withhold care.

For one thing, since they rely on the people of Earth for labor and manufacturing, it can’t be beneficial to simply let them die. Furthermore, since it seems the only thing that makes the people of Earth want to disrupt the balance of life on “Elysium” is their need for medical care, it would placate the masses if they had maybe one machine per country. The machines cure people so fast it wouldn’t take long for all the people with terminal illness to get cured.

Despite its flaws, “Elysium” displays some interesting ideas of how the future might look with the assistance of technology. It is interesting to watch all the little aspects of tech that make their world different. The action scenes are also unlike anything I have ever seen before on screen. Though we may see a number of movies featuring exoskeleton fights in the future, this is the first I’ve seen, and it is really cool to watch. If you are a science fiction fan and can ignore some of the more annoying aspects of social commentary in the film, it is a solid summer film and worth watching in theaters.

From → Sci-fi

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