"I take orders from the Octoboss."


tn_elysiumELYSIUM is a real solid sci-fi picture, and different from the ones we usually see these days. The story is pretty simple: Max (Matt Damon), a hard-working ex-con in the shitty world of 2154, gets fucked over by an easily preventable industrial accident. It’s gonna kill him in 5 days but he knows if he was only on Elysium, the space station where all the rich people live after abandoning this polluted, overpopulated shit pile, the medical care he needs would be easily accessible. So he’ll try anything to live, including going back to work for his old crime boss who is involved in some (unsuccessful, from what we see) attempts to smuggle the tired, poor, huddled masses onto Elysium.

It’s written and directed by Neill Blompkamp of DISTRICT 9 fame. He’s from South Africa, and that movie was about apartheid of course, and this one is also about a separation between classes (not entirely, but mostly, along racial lines, it looks like). The whole planet is like one big favela on top of another big favela. Elysium is like a ring of luxurious mansions and golf courses on a perpetually beautiful Spring day.

Down on earth it’s a lived-in world, not only in the STAR WARS some-of-the-futuristic-equipment-is-not-shiny-and-new sense but also in the urban sense. The fast food mascot type statue with a voice box that acts as his parole officer has graffiti tags all over it. Max’s Adidas look old like they’d look when you found them at Goodwill. At one point when a spaceship is lifting off I noticed a plastic bag floating around in its wake. There’s a scene where Max has to get a robotic exo-skeleton surgically attached. They’re basically souping him up, and they look more like mechanics than doctors. He’s all dirty and they don’t even clean him off. The operating room has graffiti all over the walls. I bet there are cats living in there and shit.

That scene, by the way, made me realize “wait a minute – this is R-rated? They still make those?” And it was kind of refreshing to have that feeling that even though this is a big space ship type movie the danger to these characters is ages 14 and up. Bodies could be harmed.

mp_elysiumI love the attention to detail. The rich have an alternative to tattoos, a way of raising parts of their skin in intricate designs, like doilies growing off of them. It’s a strange futuristic fashion trend, but subtle, not aggressive like, say, the crazy hairdos in HUNGER GAMES. I like the way the psychotic operative Kruger (Sharlto Copley, Blomkamp’s Bruce Campbell, creating a topnotch villain with limited screen time) switches from ragged weaponry on Earth to a out-of-the-box, top-of-the-line power-armor on Elysium. He’s the rare person who’s sort of allowed to go between both worlds.

Blomkamp uses alot of unsteadicam, and I’m not sure if this is stylistic leftovers from the fakumentary part of DISTRICT 9 or if he was just trying to make Jason Bourne feel at home. There are definitely a couple parts where it creates a visual chaos that for me detracts from otherwise well executed action sequences. Other than that I like everything about the style of this movie. Blomkamp shoots everything as if on location, as if the digital spaceships and things are just part of the world and not something it would occur to him to focus on. No part of it feels like the big effects shot for the trailer.

The only thing I didn’t like other than the shakiness was the childhood flashbacks. It borders on GREEN LANTERN prologue territory when Max knew the female lead as a child and dreamed of going to Elysium with her. Also, the nun’s words to him are the only thing to make him seem like some kind of a chosen one instead of just a dude. These seem like accidentally undeleted deleted scenes. But I forgave them a little more by the end since they come together nicely at the climax.

You know what, I definitely didn’t notice that Max’s crime associate Spider was played by Wagner Moura, Nascimento from the ELITE SQUAD movies. Even after I saw that on IMDb I had to stare at some pictures to be able to see it. But at least I knew the surgeon guy with the face tattoos was Snowflake (Jose Pablo Cantillo) from REDBELT. Of course, Alice Braga was also in REDBELT, and she plays Frey, Max’s childhood friend, lost love and underworld doctor. (Between residuals for this, I AM LEGEND and PREDATORS I bet Braga does pretty well for somebody who’s not really a household name. Saving up for a spot on Elysium.)

I thought I should Google “elysium politics” to find out if people had figured out an acceptable way to be outraged by it. It’s a movie that starkly illustrates, among other things, the cruelty of a class system where people are shut out from health care because they’re poor. Here in the U.S. that’s a way of life viciously defended by an entire political party and part of the other one. It’s a very common stance but it can’t be supported by any major religious belief, code of honor or standard of basic human decency, and the movie shows that with very powerful, clear symbolism. Desperate mothers scrambling to sneak their sick daughters into the ol’ medipod – is Fox News gonna defend Elysium’s right to stop this?

Nah, they just compile quotes of reviews that say that it’s “heavy handed,” or that the politics are naive since they end up opening the borders to all immigrants. Or the New York Post complaining that it would be more exciting for them to blow up Elysium than “want to move in” (somebody sure doesn’t understand the movie). I guess you can’t admit that you’re against healing sick people so you just say you’re being lectured (for being against healing sick people).

I love it though ’cause it has that ol’ THEY LIVE “Figures it would be something like this” feeling. It’s not a lecture at all, it’s a portrait. Earth is a third world planet, a giant slum where everybody gets pushed around by unfeeling robot cops. When Max gets in trouble for making a smartass comment to one of them (not because it’s disrespectful, but because its programming didn’t get the joke) he has to face his parole officer, the aforementioned voicebox (like TOTAL RECALL’s cab driver, but with power over people’s lives).

I can’t think of another sci-fi dystopia that did it quite like this, but it’s just so despicable that I absolutely believe it. The rich people took off but left an automated system in place to keep the riff raff in line. And you can just picture them justifying it to themselves! It’s fairer that way. Not subject to human error. Everyone gets treated equally by the system. It’s not safe for us to be down there.

Yeah, I never realized it before, but that’s gonna happen some day.

Max used to be a criminal, but he’s straightened his life out, he has a job “on the line,” in some kind of giant factory, pulling levers and moving things around. Hard, sweaty, unfulfilling manual labor and he has to fight for it, almost getting kicked off a shift because of the broken arm from the stupid robocop. And then he has to risk his life because his supervisor tells him to. And he knows he shouldn’t and I’m sure they can’t legally make him do it but if he doesn’t he’s off the shift. So he does it, and gets radiation poisoning. The dumbass supervisor knows he just got a guy killed but doesn’t have the balls to apologize. A medical robot gives him some pills and thanks him for his service, at least. That was pretty classy.

Even Frey, who went away, got educated and came back to work as a doctor, has it pretty bad. Notice that when she tells him when her shift ends it includes both a time and a day of the week. And she can’t get care for her sick daughter either.

Come to think of it, if they had those medipods on Earth she might not’ve needed to go get that education anyway. She’d be out of a job. But she’d find something.

Of course this unbalanced system is defended by Elysium’s Homeland Security, led by Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster, who’s supposed to be French?). She’s a hawk who goes behind the president’s back, working with both weapons manufacturers who benefit from her policies and unsavory operatives on Earth like Kruger.

It works because it’s so true. Of course a guy who works a job like Max does is not gonna have insurance. And of course if a machine was invented that could scan the body for sicknesses and quickly repair them, the motherfuckers would put basically a security password on it so that only the right people could use it. It’s so inhuman that of course humans would do it. You fucking know it!

Some of the critiques I read complained that the residents of Elysium are not allowed to be developed, they’re just seen sipping wine out on their beautiful viewpoints, or laying by the pool. But of course that distance from them is exactly why it works. Showing their complicated lives isn’t necessary. We don’t assume they’re evil people. They’re just clueless and scared, like the neighbors who don’t answer the door for Laurie in HALLOWEEN. They don’t really think about other people not having what they have, and of course they don’t want to give it up. So when a spaceship crashes and some dirty people run, break open a window and try to use their machines, of course they feel invaded. We are entrenched in our worlds, and allow ourselves to ignore, or not even understand, the plights of others. And it sets up a situation where these outsiders who have been locked out, who desperately need help, seem like the bad guys. Or an inconvenience.

And because of this division people are able to be distracted from the simple concept that our society should do whatever it can to share the medical technologies we’ve developed. As much as possible we should use it to help everyone, not just the people who have lots of money and managed to get the jobs that provide the insurance.

Obviously it’s easier to identify with Max. I’d definitely be down on Earth in this scenario. Compared to most of you I’m probly poor. But I’m as comfortable as I need to be and sometimes when people ask me for money on the streets it’s hard to look them in the eye. And there are many parts of the world where most people have it worse than those guys do. I know that in a way I’m on Elysium. It’s not just an us against them story. We’re us but we’re sort of them too.

One little moment that I think is very important is when (SPOILER) Delacourt is dying, Frey doesn’t hesitate to protect her from Kruger, and tries to bandage her. When the tables are turned the earthling tries to share her medical care. Because that’s what you do, you dicks. You try to help somebody. But she doesn’t have the technological advantage, so she fails.

Max, on the other hand, is not always altruistic. It takes some doing and some coincidences for him to get beyond just trying to save his own ass. So not everybody’s Jesus, or even Luke Skywalker. But you try to do what you can.

This entry was posted on Monday, August 12th, 2013 at 1:03 am and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

63 Responses to “Elysium”

  1. Viscous! I like it! I really need to see this now, even after mediocre reviews.

  2. Trust you to turn that into something profound. Excellent review as always cheers Vern

  3. The Undefeated Gaul

    August 12th, 2013 at 1:59 am

    Glad to read you liked it, Vern. I’ve been a little bit confused by some of the negative reviews, not one of them has managed to really explain why they didn’t like it. The only real reasons I could discern was that Jodie Foster isn’t very good in it and, as you mention, that the movie is too heavy-handed with its themes. Those sound like minor flaws to me that wouldn’t massively impact one’s enjoyment of the film. Therefore I’m still convinced I’m going to love this, even more so after your review.

    Too bad I have to wait another week before it opens here!

  4. Sounds like you liked the movie quite a bit more than I did. And I really wanted to love it. My main complaint is that I didn’t feel like the world was fleshed out enough. I wanted to see more detail about how everybody went about their daily lives. On earth we saw people work at a factory and other people just hanging out on the street drinking. On Elysium we saw people dressed like Mitt Romney’s family having barbeques. If Paul Verhoeven had directed this, you can bet we would have seen what these people watched on television.

    I also thought the pacing was pretty bad. They could have tightened things up and cut 15 minutes easily. Plus, the shaky cam was super annoying in the action scenes. And it got worse as the movie went along. I’d give this an Action Comprehensibility Rating of 2 out of 5.

    That being said, I still liked the movie. It’s easily the best looking movie I’ve seen this year. The effects are perfect, and often beautiful. And I love what it has to say about our world. It just didn’t blow me away like District 9.

  5. I loved this one, fuck the critics giving it bad reviews, this is the best sci fi movie I’ve seen since CHILDREN OF MEN in my opinion (DISTRICT 9 is good too, but this is more my style)

    it may not be apparent, but I actually have a very cynical side of me and ELYSIUM, like CHILDREN OF MEN, managed to tickle my “fuck the world” funnybone, I absolutely think the future is gonna be something like this, we’re gonna fuck this planet up hard and be forced to leave it, that is if we don’t go extinct in the process, maybe in the very long run (like 1000 years) we’ll get our shit together, but not for a long, long time

    if I have any complaints it’s this

    1. the scenes on Earth were grim, but I kinda wish they were even grimmer, I’m talking dead bodies in the streets and no one cares, starving, crying children and no one cares and a drunk guy beating his wife to a pulp and no one cares, the movie stabs, but doesn’t twist the knife, you know what I mean? it’s R rated, so why not go the extra mile to show just how fucking miserable the world is? (and for good measure, how about a dog running by carrying someone’s severed hand? get it?)

    2. I was hoping for a big battle amongst the rich people’s homes on Elysium, with their homes getting destroyed in the crossfire, Max should have had to fight his way to the control center instead of just being brought there unconscious

    but that’s a sign of a good movie I think if it just makes you want more of it

    however, like CHILDREN OF MEN, ELYSIUM gives you a spoonful of sugar with an optimistic ending and I like that because at the end of the day we really DON’T know what the future holds, whether it’s gonna be good or bad is a “glass half full” situation where it all depends on how cynical on you are, for all we know the future could turn out to be awesome, I’d bet on money on it being awful, but I HOPE it’s good instead

    all I know though is that I had my childhood dreams and hopes for the future go down with the Twin Towers, so I’m not holding my breath

  6. It’s better than all new movies I’ve seen this year but not as good as D9.
    The main problem here may be Damon. It’s not that his bad, but he simplynot cool or bad ass like the best dystopian sci-fi leads like Heston (Omega Man), Gibson (Mad Max), Russel (Escape From New York), Ford (Blade Runner) or Copley (D9).
    D9 felt like the best debate movie since Reservoir Dogs. However, The followup doesn’t feel like Pulp Fiction. It’s very good, but not as good or perfect as the first one.

  7. I loved the movie for the first twenty minutes or so until the pacing wore things down for me. I just hate being bored during a heist or chase scene. Like the characters, I just wanted to get to Elysium. I loved the way they set up what Earth was like and really enjoyed all the little touches, especially the way it showed that there were class differences even between Frey and Max. (Loved that Frey had a contemporary flat screen TV, but that it was probably the equivalent of a cabinet tube TV in a lower income home.) I wanted to see more little touches of the Elysium world and not just its control room.

  8. *debut. sorry. sleepy..

  9. I really liked the movie, but the shaky-cam during the fight scenes or when people are in a vehicle having a bumpy ride really questioned my newly prescribed eye contacts. Too bad because the fight scenes looked like they would be great without the cameraman having an epileptic fit. I know this kind of thing gets criticized all the time, but this is the first time I was having a real problem with it since “Quantum of Solace”, and for some reason I didn’t have a problem with it in the Jason Bourne movies.

    I know most people are praising Sharlto Copley, but I found the character an annoying asshole with a high pitched, hard to understand voice. Being eccentric with the samurai sword and throwing straws didn’t give him any cool factor, having those weapons seemed pretty random actually. I don’t know the actor who played Spider, but that guy is fucking awesome. So was Matt Damon. My favorite thing though was the “world building” and the great tech (robots, ships, etc.)

  10. Copley is fine; Krueger is not.
    Performance good, character bad.

    The bbq-flipping & the sadistic streak, I get. That’s solid, almost cartoonish villainy, the kind of thing we appreciate, and it all sort of leads to his leading the nonsensical coup against Jodie Foster’s organized political coup-ers at the end.

    (ELYSIUM seems to be based on an update of the Chekhov’s gun premise — “If someone’s has a weapon, then that someone must always be escalating the way he uses his weapons until he dies or until everything gets bloodied & blowed up, and even if he dies (grenade to the face) we’ll somehow keep making him point & shoot and fight and point & shoot and kill some more no matter if there’s logic to it.)

    But is it really necessary for the bad guys to threaten to sexually assault innocent women, to brag about a willingness to torture people in front of children, and to yell & laugh about how much they love to be violent brutes? I get it, you’re bad people, you have no love to give, I am not supposed to empathize with you, I want Frey & Max to headbutt you so I can clap, thanks for clarifying how I’m supposed to feel about these guys, movie.
    Krueger & his cohorts may as well be the human versions of Scar & the hyenas from THE LION KING, but with much thinner characterizations and much less justified levels of straightforward nastiness.

    But I still liked ELYSIUM okay, mainly for the sets, the f/x, the exploding torsos & faces, and the weaponry. I’m a bad person.

    There were several action moments that could have been much much better if they’d been given space to breathe & to be breathed in by the audience, but apparently that kind of flowing, easy-to-see, gorgeous, wide-shot geographical shooting technique approach is reserved for Zack Snyder, and no one’s allowed to be a fan of Zack Snyder, so we get cramped unsteadicam bullshit instead.

    Forcefield-shield vs. bullets shot compositions (sounds fuckin’ awesome, right?) are only respectable if you can only see one third of the forcefield-shield at a time and only see the shoulder & gun-sparks of the shooter. If the camera stepped back and we were allowed to see the whole awesome encounter in a properly traditionally framed shot, it would hurt our sensitive eyes, or it would be a Snyder film and would therefore automatically be denounced as indulgent and as only trying to appeal to 14 year old boys (who, not incidentally, arguably possess the greatest sense of what satisfying cinematic violence really is).

    And if you *do* accidentally include an awesome, fully realized, fully visible shot of action in your film — as in the grounded double-pistoled hijacker running & shooting his tilted guns up at Krueger’s airship in pursuit — then you have to hold that shot for no more than 1.5 seconds, then cut away several times in the next 5 seconds to erase our memory of having beheld one shining example of gorgeous, impressively composed & filmed action spectacle.

    Hey, I didn’t write the rules.

    Though I worry about his shooting crew’s health & welfare and about his apparent disdain for antiseptics, Blomkamp still seems simpatico with my genre preferences. The “how badass is he” moments in ELYSIUM are subtle — his criminal friend offhandedly remarking “You used to be the best” when he’s asking about getting Max to do One Last Job — but they’re there.

    Some of the cheeseball moments were too reminiscent of JOHNNY MNEMONIC (the hacking & downloading silliness) or the worst parts of STRANGE DAYS (compromised, angry plebeians taking down The System…) in my opinion, and the flashbacks that set up a Christ narrative were kind of silly, but I’ll keep supporting Blomkamp as long as he keeps finding inventive ways & reasons to explode lifeforms with unique weaponry. Like I said, I’m a bad person.

  11. I liked this movie enough to see it twice this weekend, something I haven’t bothered with since at least Django. Also, as an aside, visual earmarks of a Blompkamp film seem to be the inclusion of pigs and exploding humans.

  12. I really wanted to watch it this weekend, but hearing about its post action problems really makes me wait for home video.

  13. I had no problem with the action scenes. There might some jiggling here and there but the payoff is always crystal clear. These are some of the finest exploding dudes I’ve ever seen.

  14. thank you vern.

  15. “But is it really necessary for the bad guys to threaten to sexually assault innocent women, to brag about a willingness to torture people in front of children, and to yell & laugh about how much they love to be violent brutes?”
    This is a good point in regards to movies like this turning nuance on and off for whatever current purpose in the narrative it serves. I like the idea of Kruger as a Neanderthal (grilling chicken with a sword remains the film’s highlight) but it does seem like the third act is all over the place, and they throw him out there as some sort of violent kamikaze barely in control of his actions. Did his face surgery mess with his brain somehow?

    But I thought, in the middle of all that distasteful emotional violence that he shows to Alice Braga’s character, there was that one interesting moment where he’s sort of touching, sort of fondling her, and he’s talking about settling down, being domestic, having a family. Obviously, she’s being violated in that brief moment, but her choice never enters the equation for him, because he considers himself a soldier, one who believes that if he follows orders, one day he’ll DESERVE a quiet domestic life with a wife and kids. Very brief in the movie, but it gave insight as to how this guy’s not right in the head, but motivated by a specific idea.

    Anyway, I don’t know about the politics of this film because I don’t think they’re very “political.” The metaphor essentially wants us to believe that health care is something the rich have, and that they refuse to share with others. But when you have a separate rich-people space station and magical heal-everything machines, it complicates the metaphor – what would the rich be giving up to give this sort of medical access to the non-citizens? We don’t know enough about Elysium to know whether it can sustain an influx of other people… I sort of feel like this is the end of Avatar, where you’re supposed to assume “And the US Military never bothered Pandora again!”

    I mean, we really see such a small chunk of Elysium that it doesn’t register beyond “Club Med.” Do they have religion on Elysium? Schools? What does Jodie Foster’s Delacourt do when she gets home? I guess tennis?

    Maybe the movie needed an extra twenty minutes or so. It’s not very long as is. For that matter, we could have chopped out the childhood flashbacks and shown more of Max’s criminal acumen in the past that everyone reveres so much, or maybe an explanation as to why that nifty exoskeleton was just sitting around waiting to be used. Kinda felt this movie was like, “We want you to think!” and then suddenly, “Woah, maybe don’t think THAT hard.”

  16. Yeah, the action isn’t *bad* by any means, and it’s not butchered or anti-eyeball in any post-action sense. I enjoyed almost all of it in the moment… but in a limited sense. 20 minutes after I walked out of the auditorium, my mind couldn’t point to a single Badass, “Fuck Yeah” moment other than the very very brief double-gun-blazing against the airship, the forcefield, that time Kruger had a sword handle hanging out his back and grabbed it (I think?), and maybe the Elysium crash landing.

    So that sounds like a good bit when I catalog it like that, but all that stuff adds up to an aggregate, like, 14 seconds of distinct radness.

    The stupid smile put on my face after the first time I saw the slumlord’s henchmen get blasted in DISTRICT 9 lasted, like, 14 hours. And the weapons of DISTRICT 9 de-atomized a lot of motherfuckers before & after that particularly great skirmish.

  17. Sharlto Copley’s character looks like a complete mad man in this movie. It’s the only reason I really want to see it. Might catch it this weekend then I’ll read the review and thread.

  18. Um, this may be a bit spoilers so… Avoid if you don’t want to know specifics

    So Kruger has his “accident” and gets fixed up a bit. Did it look to any of you that it also made his character look significantly younger? I swear to god his nose looked smaller/less bulbous. It could’ve been that he was just really filthy before, but I’d wager it’s a little visual touch that was maybe supposed to help drive his sudden passion for making Elysium his.

  19. Yeah, he did look weirdly cleaned up. Like his hair looked washed and groomed, unlike earlier in the film. I’m pretty sure we were supposed to infer that the process changed him.

  20. Yeah, the most impressive thing about the future isn’t that we live in outer space in a perpetual high-end fashion commercial with tanning beds that can cure cancer or grenade-face within seconds; it’s that we have med-bays that reproduce 7 weeks worth of scruff within seconds.

    I was always taught that hair is dead matter, but the Science! of ELYSIUM seems to disagree.

  21. I felt positively worn out by the end of this flick and not by its politics or its ideas. I wish it would have given me more time with each. And I wish it would have given me more time with each character. And I wish it would have given me more time (or any time) for the moments when characters suddenly decide to do something else or exceed their already previously narrowly defined function. I was worn out because I was doing and feeling nothing except trying to keep up with the visual shots in a movie where I already knew the path of the story. There were no surprises narratively. In short, this seems to be the film that either needed three or four more drafts to really refine it. (And to anyone that says look at the cast, they wouldn’t have signed on without a good script, I can point to three or four or six films in the two touted stars recent history that would have benefitted from a more elegant screenplay)

    Or the other alternative is that the film was fixed in post, ie, if we keep the pace breakneck, no one will notice all of the terrible narrative logic that is going on.

    Either way, I don’t like it at all. It’s a lot easier to find beauty in the very not so pretty than it is to justify why something that is pretty and pretends to have something to say is so full of itself that it won’t allow us any chance to participate at all.

    I realize that most of the time when I chime in here, it is negative. Sorry. I used to get in trouble from my editors for finding the “silver lining” in almost every movie. But as I get older, I find myself liking the mainstream movies less and less and less. And in my opinion that is because Neill could have benefited from watching any of Lumet’s films or Blake Edwards or anyone that did not do “action” per se. They gave us characters and tension and humor and all of the things I felt Elysium did not.

  22. the actions scenes were good in my opinion, yeah there was shaky cam, but I could still tell what was going on, it was handled a lot better than most action scenes these days

  23. Gabe T. – yeah, the rich people on Elysium very easily could have helped the world out, but they didn’t want to because they’re greedy

    it’s just like today, how much could the rich help the world if they were all willing to give just 1/3 of their wealth up for the greater good? a lot, but they sure aint doing that

  24. Nope, sorry, I appreciate your effort to convince me otherwise, but I’m not gonna pay that much money for movie that probably won’t let me see most of it.

  25. Obviously it’s easier to identify with Max. I’d definitely be down on Earth in this scenario. Compared to most of you I’m probly poor. But I’m as comfortable as I need to be and sometimes when people ask me for money on the streets it’s hard to look them in the eye. And there are many parts of the world where most people have it worse than those guys do. I know that in a way I’m on Elysium. It’s not just an us against them story. We’re us but we’re sort of them too.

    I love this paragraph. I wish I liked the movie though. I thought it was substantially worse than DISTRICT 9 for basically the reasons Gabe T. and MDM talk about. I wanted to get to know the characters better and I wanted my understanding of the world to deepen as the movie progressed. Neither happened, instead the movie just kinda hurtles relentlessly towards its big boring climax.

    Something that seems revealing to me is that the movie chooses not to get any body horror mileage out of Max’s exoskeleton. He’s slightly nervous before the operation, but after that he’s not even slightly freaked about what’s been permanently grafted to his body. It’s just, yeah, sure, plug your fucken computer into my skull. No problem dude. We also don’t get any sense that he’s excited by the new strength it gives him. He’s all business, just like the movie. The biggest humanizing digressions the movie makes time for are those slow-motiony flashbacks set to Lisa Gerrard-style vocalizing, which in my opinion are bad scenes.

    Kruger was admittedly pretty awesome. I don’t know what the South African version of a bogan is called, but that’s basically him – he’s a cretinous psycho, and that bit of vulnerability he shows when he talks about wanting a family just makes him even weirder and more unsettling (I love the point Gabe T. makes about this). Also he’s cool looking. I liked the other mercs too, just guys who wanna kill people in gruesome ways and cackle while giving them the finger. Not to sound bloodthirsty, but I could’ve used even more FIST OF THE NORTH STAR-style head explosions in this film.

    Mouth – I would argue the reason you got 14 seconds of radness out of this and not 14 hours isn’t just that the action isn’t as accomplished (though I feel like I remember D9’s action being more cleanly shot even if everything was handheld), but that DISTRICT 9 did a better job of pulling off the underdog vs impossible odds thing. What was at stake for Wikus and what he was fighting for was more explicit and urgent-feeling. And its action was basically all at the end of the movie, so it builds up to an awesome cathartic release.

  26. well said vern

  27. The film had some bumps along the way, but overall it was a really great experience. I’m really looking forward to whatever Blomkamp does next. He seems interested in really stretching what Blockbuster cinema can really accomplish.

    I’m not one of those people who try to look for supposed “plot holes,” but one thing that did bother me about the movie was how easy it was to get to Elysium. I’m not sure why Jodie Foster’s character had to call up Kruger in order to destroy that first wave of ships. You would think that Elysium itself would have some sort of “defensive” system.

  28. Ugh. I used the word really way too much in that first paragraph.

  29. Vern, you’ve made me much more excited to see this. I was kind of indifferent before.

  30. I just got back from this one and was sort of disappointed. (Minor spoilers)
    Everything seemed sort of half-assed when compared to D9. The weapons were cool, but not that cool. We had one that explodes and hurts anything within 5 meters, but how does the bullet know when to explode? The other two (discs and shuriken) just stuck on someone and exploded. Cool, but not super.
    The exoskeleton was really half-assed though. Just drill this stupid looking thing onto Matt Damon and he’s super-tough (a favela ninja). Did it cover his hands, legs, or face? No, but none of them were hurt when punched by/punching a robot.
    I agree with Griff that Neil could have done more to show desperation on Earth. I mean, of course the sick were desperate, but everyone else seemed to have a shitty job, or just hang out in the hood.
    This by Pauline Kael discussing Yojimbo:
    “The Western dog, who howled at his master’s grave in Shane, who crossed the road to frame the action at the beginning and end of the Ox-Bow Incident, has a new dimension in Yojimbo-he appears with a human hand for a bone. This dog signals us that in this movie the conventions of the form are going to be turned inside out, we’ll have to shift expectations, abandon sentiments: in this terrain dog eats man.”
    The stakes needed to be raised, and we needed a dog with a hand my friend.

  31. I actually liked the fact that the movie didn’t go the extreme Verhoeven route when depicting the conditions on Earth. These people are living in abject poverty, but if they are incredibly lucky, then maybe they can get a dangerous job where they can’t even take a day off because of illness or injury. One of the themes the movie gestures at is how people can rationalize the oppression of others. The president seems completely fine with the kind of poverty that exists on earth, but once you start killing people, then he becomes queasy. Jodie Foster’s character, meanwhile, represents the brutality of that kind of system completely unleashed. She understands the kind of violence that needs to be deployed in order to keep such an unequal balance of power around. The fact that people can get jobs and can also manage to get by, barely, living in shacks allows people, like the president, to further justify the world they have created. They can tell themselves, Well, if those on earth work hard enough, then they can buy food and shelter, so they can’t have it all that bad. It reminds me of a Fox News segment a while back where the newscaster argued that poverty doesn’t really exist in the U.S. since people have such luxuries as refrigerators and microwaves.

  32. Just got out of a session of this – does anyone else think that the horrendous ADR work that was done by and to Jodie Foster in this film went a long way towards totally fucking up her performance??

    As for the film, I thought that none of it was great, some of it was good and a lot of it was bad.

  33. As an european, the typical american stance against universal welfare is beyond weird, it’s downright unbelievable it exists in a western country.
    And the attacks against it almost sounds demonic. It’s las Vern said, it’s like hearing people say that the poor don’t deserve to get medical treament because they are poor. Even the middle ages was more humanistic.

  34. Demonic and barbaric, but only like half of Americans oppose efforts at expanding health care to all citizens.

    This blazing column by the excellent political writer Jon Chait, published 2 months before our Supreme Court upheld PPACA, is still pertinent, today & in the Elysium elite future:


    See, we’re not all evil in this country.

  35. No, just the right wingers, who truly take the cake and blow it like if it’s a Michael Bay movie.

  36. I really dug this movie, but I’m struggling to put my finger on why it didn’t *quite* connect with me the way that DISTRICT 9 did. If I had to guess, it’d be that ELYSIUM has a strange, almost start-stop pacing to it. There’s a long chunk where everyone’s running around and barking out orders and plot, but it doesn’t seem like much at all is actually happening. It’s weird because Blompkamp set up this great ticking clock for why Max needs to hurry, but the film never has the driving immediacy or momentum that you’d think it would. Anyway, still a good movie.

  37. The Undefeated Gaul

    August 18th, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Saw Elysium today and fucking loved it. There’s some valid points made above, but still I’m surprised a lot of you sound as negative as you do. It may be more superficial than D9, but still how often do we get this type of high quality sci-fi rollercoaster action film these days? We don’t.

    Cool story, flawless effects, a great villain performance, good action (just a tad too much shaky cam, which is why I’m calling it good not great) and a thrilling final fight between hero and villain. Kruger in the film kind of reminded me of Keegan in Bullet To The Head, in the way that they are these unbeatable badasses that start out as henchmen but in the end are all that stand between the hero and salvation. I always love it when that happens, makes the final fight that bit more dramatic/epic, the true climax of the film instead of just a throwaway thing that happens before the main (never as cool) villain is confronted.

    By the way, what’s so bad about Foster’s performance? It’s just your typical bureaucratic type villain, not much to play around with so not impressive, but certainly not bad. Her accent didn’t bother me in the slightest.

  38. “I guess you can’t admit that your against healing sick people…” Indeed, a way of life viciously defended by an entire political party. Really, Main Man. That’s what opposing a specific sweeping healthcare legislation bill amounts to. Key aspects of said legislation’s implementation now being delayed by its very author (POTUS)… buuuut only for the wealthy big business Elysium types, ya know, not the middle/working class types said author eloquently speechifies so much about. Could that possibly, probably, sorta kinda suggest that the opposition might have a few valid criticsms about the faultiness of the bill beyond moustache twerling eeeeeeeeeevil.

  39. Rogue: I wondered what was taking you so long.

    No, this is not about the Affordable Health Care Act, which is indeed flawed, in part because they compromised from the beginning to try to please the Republicans and the big pharmaceutical companies, and in part because the Republicans have spent years trying every possible way to sabotage it from every possible angle. It’s not much, but it’s a start, and the entire Republican party is against even that small amount of improvement. And of course it’s not on the merits of the bill, you are a grown up and could not possibly believe that they have made a serious attempt to improve it. They’re against it because 1. Obama and 2. health care.

    You know as well as I do that you and the Republican party have a philosophical opposition to the government helping to provide health care to the citizens. The medipods (or whatever this movie calls them) symbolize that, and not this specific legislation. Blomkamp is a South African who lives in Canada, I doubt he gives a shit about this specific fight, if he has even followed it at all.

  40. Well now do we have a “philosophical opposition to govt provided health care”, or are we opposed to “healing sick people”, or “1. Obama (cause of coarse partisan opposition was a completely unheared of phenomenon until 2008), 2. health care” ( as defined by being able to stay on mom & pop’s insurance until 26… quite suggestive of an earnest prioritization of improving the next gen’s economic opportunities) ?? Cause none of those are actually one in the same. Inconvenient as the notion may be to the eeeeeeevil Republicans narrative *tm*, it is actually possible for one to be of the opinion that the healthcare system needs reform and that the current administration’s plan won’t do it, that the plan doesn’t represent an improvement (settled, beyond dispute conclusion, though I know you hold it to be). And its interesting the degree to which those on your side of the isle simply will not apply the concept of accountibility to this Pres. His baby is never his baby. “Sure, Pres. Obama’s signature peace of legislation is flawed… because… evil Republicans!!”(who at present control 1/2 of 1/3 of the 3 overall branches of govt, and who for this President’s first two years in office controlled none.).

    I do think Repubs could do a better job of articulating an alternative plan,( I liked Dr. Ben Carson’s idea of a from birth med account) but lack of said articulation doesn’t magically invalidate criticsms.

  41. If a Dem even half-hinted at the notion of “a from birth med account,” there’d be no end to the lunatic rightwing warnings that this is a body control conspiracy that forces all American infants to be registered on some wicked Big Government Agenda 21 watchlist (though immunization records & the issuance of Social Security numbers already arguably does this anyway, not to mention today’s idiotic new parents who immediately give their newborns a detailed, privacy-invading/destroying Facebook account).

    There’d be townhall uprisings with posters that show a baby with a bar code on her forehead, flying alongside “don’t tread on me” flags wielded by Benghazi conspiracy theorists who conveniently forget the unfortunate embassy attacks suffered during previous administrations.

    Anyway, this here is a letter (with a futuristical 23 AUG 2013 date stamp) I got in the mail a couple days ago:

    Make of this what you will. This is apolitical stuff, stuff I just think you’ll find interesting and possibly helpful in rounding out your opinions about health care. (Your takeaway should be “Join The Army” in my opinion.)

  42. Man, I can never make a lick of sense out of Rogue4’s posts. I can’t separate sarcasm from genuine opinion and every sentence seems completely disconnected from the next. I don’t know if he is not great at articulating his position or if it’s because we are so ideologically opposed that we are basically talking different languages.

  43. Rogue, come on dude. Straight up, do you SERIOUSLY believe that any current or recent Republican in a federal office has made a sincere attempt to give us more access to or improve our health care? Use specific examples.

    By the way, plenty of democrats are also guilty.

    As for accountability, what is there to be accountable for here? That he only got a little bit past those fucking assholes? His leadership inspired more progress on this issue than anyone else has managed so far. The things I have a problem with are some of his policies on spying and using drones and stuff, and he hasn’t tried to deny responsibility for those policies. He stands by them, unfortunately.

  44. the Republican tears when Hilary gets elected are going to be DELICIOUS!

    I cant wait

  45. Is she really that popular? From my perspective of an European, who only knows very little about American politics, I always had the impression that nobody likes her. (Although to be honest, since the Republicans seem to do everything to make the average Joe hate them, the liberals could nominate Bugs Bunny and he would most likely win the election.)

  46. CJ – as far as I know she’s pretty popular among left leaning people, of course Republicans despise her but they hate everyone who isn’t them

  47. I haven’t read all the comments but I just wanted to mention the part with the nun and him being the special one or whatever. To me that felt like what most parents/carers say to their children, that they’re special and they can do whatever they want in life if they put their mind to it. Max being a sweet kid (even with his gang tats he still had the childhood scrawl on his torso) just took it to heart.

  48. Hi Vern, thanks for the review which was informative and thought-provoking as usual. I finished watching Elysium about an hour ago and thought I’d contribute my twopenn’orth (about three cents by today’s exchange rate) while the themes were still relatively fresh in my mind. I’ll preface this with an explanation that I haven’t read everyone else’s comments and therefore I may be repeating sentiments, and also I did have three (albeit very brief) toilet breaks during the film. The latter issue was due to an ill-timed couple of beers on top of a “massimo” americano.

    There were some common ideas running through the film. The main protagonist is a working Joe trying to put his criminal past behind him, living in relative poverty getting and no real sense of satisfaction from life. He dreams of a better existence and seeing his childhood friend seems to give him some hope that things might get better. We’re not treated to their full history but it’s clear that Max’s petty theft which got him his arse kicked as a kid turned into more serious offending as he grew up. Frey sensibly got out of town at some point and got an education but then came back because, well perhaps there wasn’t anywhere better for her to go. She sees him as a foregone conclusion, initially refusing to meet for a coffee, and it’s only his boyish charm/invocation of childhood memories that get him a foot in the door. I like to think if he didn’t get that dose of radiation he could have convinced her of his changed ways and they might have had a happy life together. He isn’t stupid and maybe given the right opportunity he could have done something more positive. That said, opportunities are pretty thin on the ground in 2154 Los Angeles. Anyway thanks to an employers’ liability negligence claim in waiting, Matt/Max is left with little alternative than to do whatever Spider wants in order to get to Elysium. I have to assume that personal injury litigation went the way of the dodo in this version of America. Not that it would have helped him in the five days he had left.

    I understand that this is a parable of the class division in available healthcare and general quality of life. I don’t have any experience of the health system in the USA. In the UK we have the good old NHS and private system which work in tandem. In theory any medicine or procedure is available to anyone irrespective of social status or possession of an insurance policy. Some recent examples in the press have been “boob jobs” and “tummy tucks” handed out to people in one area and a child refused potentially life-saving surgery in another (I think that’s right anyway, it’s late and I may have read it on the Daily Mail website). So it’s become something of a postcode/zipcode lottery rather than anything to do with wealth. On Elysium they have medical bays which, through some contrivance of future technology, can heal any ailment in a matter of seconds, but only if you have a citizen tattoo/implant. Given how fast these things work, wouldn’t it have been prudent to keep a few on Earth – ordinary folk can queue up and get healed but they just have to wait a bit longer. The people on the space station have one in their front room (as you would). That way you could potentially avoid the unsanctioned shuttle landings full of people who can never hope to get the right kind of treatment at home.

    Overall the subject was handled well in my view. I sided with Max right from the off, partly because I like Matt Damon (he co-wrote and directed Good Will Hunting which is still one of my favourite films) and he usually plays sympathetic characters, but also because he was just a guy who had something sh*tty happen to him, which wasn’t his fault, and the only way for him to sort himself out was to stick it to the unfeeling CEO whose Godawful health and safety policies got him into trouble in the first place. I think maybe killing him wasn’t in Max’s plan but in future dystopias this kind of thing happens. I was slightly disappointed by how little I saw of the space station once we got there. There were a few snippets of idyllic life spent sipping champagne (or off-planet sparkling wine made in the champagne method, assuming the AOC was still in force) and being generally appalled by poor people gatecrashing your pool party, but I’m more interested in the mechanics and science than was explained or shown. It was more of a shootout from Max escaping from the scientists/surgeons until the dénouement of him dialling in his own end with the tap of an Apple return key. I would have liked more exposition of how Elysium was made and sustained and maybe a bit more of a look at the inner workings. That’s maybe just me.

    Just a thought on the possible future existence of an extra-Earth haven such as Elysium. If the technology did exist to create an independent open-air environment, would it be better to do that or just do the same here? Maybe a giant dome? Was it partly so the elite could look down on the plebs literally?

    Final thought: when Kruger and his two henchmen were raising merry hell, where were all the red droids?

  49. Paul Whose Computer Has Packed In

    August 27th, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Just seen this one. Liked it. Didn’t love it. There were a little too many moments of utter stupidity for me (futuristic face-reading technology that can pick out one person in a crowd of hundreds, fooled by a guy hiding under a van of pigs?) and I, like Gabe above, could’ve done with more of Elysium. There is a certain skill to showing a fully-realised society in a genre film. “Blade” is a great example of how to do it. This wasn’t.

    Nonetheless, I liked this one. I would cautiously recommend it to sic-fi fans, with one huge caveat: the handheld camera is a HUGE distraction. And the shakycam is terrible during the action scenes – I couldn’t tell what the heck was happening in that final fight scene for more than the occasional second at a time. There’s one shot in particular that I remember near the ending when we see a character hurl another character against some kind of barrier or wall that just completely disappears a second later – the thrown character sprawls on the ground at least fifteen feet from anything that could have stopped him.

  50. Paul Whose Computer Has Packed In

    August 27th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    And no, I don’t have my computer back yet. Still using a borrowed laptop. The keyboard is brutal. Later this week, hopefully, I will have it.

  51. Okay. Finally saw this one last night. I decided to catch a final showing at the last minute and I’m glad I did because I thought it was great. I actually forgot it wasn’t a PG-13 film until the surgery scene. I figured that’s why Max wasn’t covered in radiation burns from his accident. I should have remembered that Blomkamp don’t play that way.

    A lot of people seem to think that they needed to flesh out life on Elysium, but I thought it was perfect the way it was. It puts us in the shoes of the people on Earth, looking up at Elysium day after day; we doesn’t know much about what life is like up there, but we know just enough to know that we want to be there too. Being one of the ultra-rich probably comes with it’s own problems, but it’s got to be better than just scraping by. Some people think that makes it too heavy-handed, but I don’t see why it can’t be from the POV of the 99% instead of exploring the issue from every possible angle. Apparently it can either be a substance-free action movie or THE WIRE and nothing in between.

    One thing I wish was a little different was Delacourt’s character. I know her takeover plot was just there to put the plot in motion, but it made her too much of a stock villain. I would have preferred it if she’d had a little more depth and been more conflicted about use of force. I didn’t believe that she thought she was the good guy, a must for any memorable villain. Her terrible accent didn’t bother me.

    Loved Copley as Kruger. Genuinely menacing and funny. The whole thing with the mercenaries reminded me a lot of right-wing politicians who appeal to the worst impulses of their craziest supporters and then act shocked when it curdles into something hateful and awful. Maybe I’m just a bloodthirsty asshole itching for class warfare, but I kind of wish their rampage on Elysium had been a little lengthier, maybe taking out a few of those golf-sweater-wearing Romney-supporters lounging by pool. I laughed pretty hard when they flipped off all the Elysiumites in the control room before blowing it up.

    I’m usually really picky about shaky-cam, so I was surprised to find myself really enjoying the action scenes. Especially that scene with the crashed shuttle where there were plenty of wide establishing shots. The only time the shaky-cam got distracting for me was during the hand-to-hand fight between Max and Kruger, but I never lost track of who was punching who or felt like I got cheated out of an action scene. I loved all the crazy explosive weaponry. It makes sense that people would design weaponry for full-body-explosion when you’ve got machines that can instantly repair grenade-to-face.

    I adored the the look of the film as well. I’ve always preferred grimy, lived-in futures to the sleek Apple store design of most modern sci-fi and this was one of the best I’ve seen. I don’t agree that Earth needed to be grimmer or bleaker than it was. It needed to be bad, but still functional as a society. Just bad enough so that people on Elysium could convince themselves they are doing people a favour by giving them shitty, unsafe factory jobs. Work hard every day and maybe, just maybe, you can get a ticket out of there. If people were living in totally hopeless squalor then it wouldn’t have been as effective.

    I really enjoyed this one. Almost glad I saw it after all the mixed reviews as it heavily moderated my expectations.

  52. “but I kind of wish their rampage on Elysium had been a little lengthier, maybe taking out a few of those golf-sweater-wearing Romney-supporters lounging by pool. I laughed pretty hard when they flipped off all the Elysiumites in the control room before blowing it up.”

    I felt the same way, I wanted to see some of those mansions get destroyed in the crossfire and stuff

  53. I also thought the mansion Frey busted into should have been inhabited. Wouldn’t it have been a perfect moment, dramatically and thematically, for Frey to get into a gunpoint confrontation with one of the residents of Elysium over the use of their medi-pod. Force them into a face-to-face confrontation over a problem the system is set up to distance them from?

  54. Finally saw this.

    I thought the movie kind of died by a death of thousand cuts. To me, it felt all the character development and more nuanced exploration of the issues and sociopolitics of Earth and Elysium were left on the cutting room floor.

    Delacourt, Kruger (as much fun he was to watch) and pretty much everyone else were so poorly defined, they came across as cartoon characters. And since the movie blazes forward at a breakneck speed, all the interesting issues brought up fall apart under closer scrutiny because they were handled in such a broad and vague way. It asks too much to be glossed over to be engaging and thought provoking. In the end, the entire movie was: Matt Damon got injured, Matt Damon steals data, Matt Damon and his buddies go to Elysium. All the personal and political stuff just orbited the plot in the periphery while the movie was more concerned with getting fast from point A to B. It really could have used thirty minutes or so more character and background material.

    It would be worth it, because there is a lot of good in the film. The production design and visual effects were impeccable, the action and the tech were inventive, and the cast was good. Like I said, Copley was fun to watch as Kruger, and I did enjoy Jodie Foster as the villain with the ambiguous accent (I hear she was originally notably French in the test screenings until they decided to ADR most of her lines), even if she was very much two dimensional.

    But I doubt there will be an extended cut because Blomkamp seemed to be in full control of his picture, and I don’t think there were any external pressure for him to cut things out. This is what he wrote and what he filmed. It’s unfortunate, because what he ended up with is just a tad half baked.

  55. I caught this very recently as well. I liked it, but I know a lot of ways it could have been better.

    The main thing is that there was too much going on. This needed to be more like Children of Men, which paints in broad strokes and is fairly simple, instead of getting bogged down in different factions and sub factions and backstabbing in those factions.

    I do like Blomkamp, and I appreciate that he really is swinging for the fences. He’s the closest thing we have to a Verhoeven right now and he’ll have to do.

  56. Hey GUESS WHAT everyone? I watched 45 minutes of this movie and thought it SUCKED.

    DISTRICT 9 was much better. So was MAN OF STEEL.

  57. Let me guess, you hated the politics?

  58. Well now that Blomkamp is back in the news, I figured I’d finally get this off my DVR – and I actually really liked it! Sure it’s broad and on-the-nose, and too grim/morose to be viewed as a Verhoeven-like satire that might forgive it’s flaws/plot holes. But I don’t know, it was entertaining, fast-paced, looked fantastic (i don’t know how much CGI was involved but there were certain practical-LOOKING effects like the shuttle crashing into the backyard that almost made my jaw drop), and for some reason I thought the action sequences were clear and easy to see on my TV. Also any movie where a character can suddenly whip out a gadget like exploding shruikens and a pocket bullet-shield with no James Bond-style foreshadowing is alright with me.

    I don’t really have a problem with Jodie Foster’s performance (I guess you could say her accent is distracting since we know she doesn’t have one and there isn’t much reason for her character to have it), but I did think her subplot ended with a fizzle. Once Kruger and his Seal Team Six-looking bearded bros graduate from henchmen to main villains the movie kind of goes downhill, but it’s still surprisingly strong.

    On another note, remember when John Carpenter kept saying the hypothetical sequel to Escape from LA would be Escape from Earth? This is pretty much that movie, isn’t it? From Damon’s Plissken-like master criminal reputation to the dual villains (half scuzzy, half bureaucratic), to the expendable sidekicks, to the *SPOILER* “press reset on the world” ending, this would have actually been a great capper to an Escape from… Trilogy.

  59. ESCAPE FROM EARTH must end with Earth exploding gloriously because Snake had the chance to save it and chose not to. That’s the only thematic endpoint of the series and I pray that I get to witness it in my lifetime.

  60. It is pretty obvious by now that Blomkamp doesn’t know how to direct a real movie. ELYSIUM is so disjointed. While this worked in favor of DISTRICT 9 due to its found footage construct, here it just feels like a special effects reel with some lousy plotting tying it together.

    When major plot points are identical to the horrendous TOTAL RECALL remake (our worker bee hero is making the oppressive police droids for a living, how ironic!) you’ve got serious issues.

    Almost everything is wrong about this film. Bad pacing. Overbearing and highly noticeable soundtrack. Bad and unnecessary dialog. Predictable character “arcs”. Even some terrible science (how does the atmosphere stay in the ring??). There are just endless moments of WTF in this movie.

    It’s pretty though. Likely Michael Bay, this guy should stick to visuals and let somebody else do his scripts, editing, and probably direct the acting. So basically they should be cinematographers and special effects guys, cause there is no arguing that they are good at that.

    Also: Horrible, horrible, horrible performance by Jodi Foster. Terrible accent. Overacting supreme.

  61. Crushinator Jones

    July 25th, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Today, as the Republican party advanced a health care bill that will kill about 43k people a year so that the top 2% of the population can get tax cuts, I found myself thinking of this movie. The class-based message of this film – which only slightly moved me when I viewed it 4 years ago in 2013 – now completely and utterly resonates with my very bones.

    I hope my great-grandkids don’t live in this hell. I fear that they will.

  62. Eat the rich, seriously, they are a tick on humanity’s side, fuck rich people.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>