Hollywood is a strange system. Always hungering for money, studios are on the permanent hunt for the next wunderkind that makes them lots of cash. That being so, every director who produced a film “on a budget” and lands a surprise hit is then handed a bigger project with more stars and a higher budget in the hopes of repeating this and in the process quadrupling the revenue. sometimes this works out okay-ish like in Oblivion, sometimes not so much. Elysium pretty much falls in the latter category. So what went wrong?
As I wrote back then I wasn’t nearly as impressed with District 9 as the rest of the world and Neill Blomkamp‘s second movie shares very much the same flaws. Most notably you simply don’t care for the protagonists. Yes, it has Matt Damon as the main hero, but the way he is used he is totally wasted here because he has nothing to work with. He is surrounded by characters that have the emotional and intellectual depth of a frog in a muddy pond and he plays to that level to fit in. This isn’t helped by a background story line that is so lame, repetitive and overused, it makes your brain hurt.
For the first 10 minutes or so we are set up with flashbacks that are telling us about the oh so poor kid having been raised in a care home by Hispanic nuns (yes, the full deal with mumbling platitudes in Spanish) and meeting the love of his life girl there and then life going badly for both of them for a while, only for them to meet again unexpectedly years later. The emo-syrup is then put on even thicker later in the movie where we of course find out that the missus has a child which so conveniently happens to have Leukemia so the hero actually now also has a “safe a child, heal the world” reason to go up to the Elysium space habitat – in addition to his own and the “mission” laid out for him.
This “mission” comes about in a rather strange way and is dealt with equally way too conveniently to be credible. After being hit by a massive dose of radiation our main protagonist finds himself with a clock ticking or he will die and then without further ado turns into some sort of Superman with a bio-mechanical exoskeleton with the help of some criminals that strangely in a world that is overpopulated, polluted and stripped of even some basic creature comforts have managed to maintain their own super-duper computer network and access to all sorts of high-tech gadgets. Do you still follow me? Exactly! I was as confused as you at this point.
And now for the big one, that is the ultimate plot hole: This all only happens because the government conveniently living on Elysium are being complete asses about withholding their med-pods which accidentally happen to cure everything from the common flu to paraplegia and cancer. Oh my! If your head isn’t spinning now! Again, completely ridiculous, considering that even in that disparate future they seem to maintain emergency wardens and with only a handful of these pods could discharge everyone again within minutes.
As you may gather by now, this film is completely illogical and paradoxic way too much even for a science-fiction movie. Nothing ever makes sense and you just don’t care. If you wanna call it that its only saving virtue is that some parts of the technology on display like the service bots in various functions or surveillance drones plus some of the vehicles actually have a vibe that they could exist only a few years from now. This is used to good effect in a few action scenes, but by no means should that be reason enough to watch the whole piece just for that. For the most part the movie just drags along and I could barely muster up enough energy to sit it through to the end. I really can’t recommend it in any way.