Score: 3/10 (Wish I could get my money back)
Elysium is a complete dud and disappointment. After watching the trailers all summer, I had high hopes that the movie would be good. The film is directed by Neill Blomkamp. I am a big fan of his previous film, District 9. Unfortunately, the two movies are not even in the same league. At the end of the 21st century, the Earth is overpopulated and polluted. As such, the wealthy conceive an idea to build a colony in space orbiting the Earth to escape from the problems of the rest of the world. At Elysium, there is no war, no disease, and no poverty. I think the concept is a unique and interesting one. However, the idea is not developed much past the basics presented in the trailer. I would like to know more about the history of Elysium. In addition, most of the movie is on Earth. As such, we only get a glimpse of Elysium. On the other hand, the shots of the landscapes and layout are beautiful and one of the few positives in the movie. Matt Damon is an excellent actor and Jodie Foster is a very accomplished and respected actress. Unfortunately, they are not given much material to work with by the script. The movie is a total bore for me. There is terrible plot, poor character development, bad acting, and lackluster action scenes. In short, there is no point to it. If you watch the first ten minutes and the last ten minutes, it is enough.
The movie begins with flashbacks of a young Max Da Costa growing up in a convent alongside his childhood friend Frey Santiago. She is very intelligent. As Max is illiterate, she spends time teaching him how to read and they develop a strong bond. Similar to everyone else on Earth, they both dream of one day living in Elysium and Max makes a vow to get them there. Max also has a conversation with a nun regarding how unfair it is that they suffer on Earth while others are living luxuriously in Elysium. Nevertheless, the nun reassures Max that he is born for a reason and will do something great to change the world. In the present, Max (Matt Damon) is an ex-con who has committed crimes such as grand theft auto. Nevertheless, he has a manufacturing job working at Armadyne Corporation, the company that built Elysium. On his way to work, the police are checking the people on line for the bus. In 2154 Los Angeles, the police are robots. As Max is an ex-con, the police ask to search his bag. However, he is a smart ass and starts cracking jokes. The unemotional robots are not amused. They fracture Max’s arm with a club as punishment before searching his bag and finding nothing. I like this scene because it shows the social disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots” with the blatantly unfair treatment of the poor on Earth compared to the lives of luxury on Elysium. When he goes to the hospital to get a cast for his arm, he runs into his childhood friend Frey (Alice Braga) who is now a nurse. Of course, having a fractured arm does not stop Max from going to work. As unemployment is rampant and jobs are scarce, Max must do whatever it takes to keep his job. Later, a door is jammed on a compartment that holds robots. As it will become radioactive when closed, Max is reluctant to go in to move the crate causing the jam. However, his supervisor threatens to terminate Max’s employment if he does not go in to fix the jam. Predictably, Max enters the compartment to fix the jam and gets stuck inside when the doors close. As such, he gets hit with a full dose of radiation and will die in five days as his organs will fail.
The antagonist in the film is Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster), the Secretary of Defense of Elysium. She has no regard for the people on Earth and has no reservations with using any means necessary to keep any illegal immigrants from reaching Elysium. Moreover, she employs an agent on Earth called Kruger (Sharlto Copley). He is ex-military but is a sketchy character with human rights violations and rape on his resume. At the beginning of the movie, some desperate citizens of Earth pay smugglers to remove their DNA imprint on their arms and replace it with the DNA of an Elysium citizen. They fly into space in three shuttles. When Delacourt’s warnings to turn around go unanswered, she messages Kruger on Earth who pulls out a bazooka to fire three missiles into space that destroy two of the three shuttles as the third shuttle is able to evade the third missile. While the Elysium police round up all of the illegal immigrants quickly, a mother is able to get her daughter into a medical bank in an Elysium home to heal her child. The reason they needed an imprint of an Elysium citizen’s DNA before the trip is that the medical bank will only work if it recognizes the individual as a citizen.
This scene did not make sense to me. First, Kruger had a bazooka that launches missiles that can enter space. Although the force from a launcher of that size cannot create enough force to propel missiles close to space, I might be able to accept that the technology of the future is so advanced that a handheld launcher could fire missiles into space. Nevertheless, if it is the case, why would Elysium not have missiles in space instead of needing an agent to fire them on Earth? If someone is able to so easily fire missiles into space in the future, I imagine that it is wise to have defenses at Elysium to defend against them. In addition, the people of Earth pay a lot of money and risk their lives just to use the medical banks in Elysium. As such, Elysium should just share the technology with the people of Earth and sell medical banks to them. It appears to me that the poor have no problem with the rich living in luxury so long as they have access to the medical banks. Instead of repeatedly spending money on more missiles and weapons as well as employing shady agents such as Kruger to keep out the people of Earth, it seems to make a lot more sense for Elysium to just sell some of the medical banks to the surface and make a lot of money from it. I am sure the point of the director is to make a political statement that the wealthy want to deny the less fortunate health care. However, the wealthy do not want to deny medical care to others. They just want everyone to pay for it themselves. In addition, the medical banks in Elysium are miracle machines and heal any ailment in the matter of seconds. Consequently, allowing everyone to have access to the machines reduces medical costs significantly as seconds in a medical bank is a much more efficient medical system than spending hours at a hospital. I know the movie is trying to make social comment but it is poorly done.
Due to the harsh measures Delacourt uses to handle intrusions into Elysium, she is reprimanded by President Patel (Faran Tahir). As such, Delacourt schemes with the CEO of Armadyne, John Carlyle (William Fichtner), on a plan that will make her President in exchange for extending Armadyne’s contracts. However, Delacourt does not do much more the rest of the movie. While I did not enjoy Jodie Foster’s performance, the movie does not allow her to do much more as her character is minimally developed. Her agent, Kruger, is also a substandard villain. He is completely over the top and pointless. He is meant to be evil and psychotic. However, he is just goofy and has terrible dialogue. The best of the villains is Carlyle but it is not saying much. He is an arrogant and smug billionaire that believes he is better than everyone. As his company’s performance is struggling, he is desperate for contracts. In addition, he is present at the factory when Max has his life ending accident. Carlyle’s only concern is that production stopped after the incident. Moreover, Carlyle lambasts the supervisor for simply breathing on him. He also barks orders for Max to be immediately removed from the medical area so he does not dirty the sheets. For these reasons, Carlyle is portrayed as unlikeable as intended.
Of course, Max needs to find a way to get up to Elysium as there is nothing on Earth that can save his life. He talks to the leader of the smugglers, Spider (Wagner Moura). In exchange for being smuggled up to Elysium, Max has to help Spider in his plot to steal brain data from a billionaire. The purpose of the plan is to steal bank account information to steal money. Moreover, Spider’s men perform surgery on Max to give him cerebral implants that will transfer the brain data into him as well as an exoskeleton that will increase his strength for the mission. Naturally, Max asks for them to select Carlyle as the target. When Max steals the brain data from Carlyle, he also obtains key information essential to Delacourt’s plot. As a result, she sends Kruger after Max to retrieve the data and the rest of the movie is filled with pointless and boring action scenes. As Max needs Frey’s help, she gets dragged into Kruger’s manhunt for Max. Moreover, her daughter Matilda is dying of leukemia and needs to use the medical banks in Elysium to save her life. Nevertheless, Max is only interested in saving his own life and does not care about helping Matilda. Frey is the only character I liked in the movie and Alice Braga does a solid job playing the character. Her absolute selflessness contrasts with Max’s absolute selfishness. She is a nurse so she can help people and conducts her life for the purpose of bettering the lives of others. On the other hand, Max is selfish as evidenced by his life of crime and refusal to help anyone but himself. When Max is in his most dire moment, Frey helps him and risks her safety to do so. All she wants is for Max to help her daughter but he refuses with little regret. Braga does an excellent job portraying Frey as a strong and moral person as well as a loving mother.
The end of the movie presents Max with decisions that force him to choose between self preservation and the greater good, which includes saving the life of Matilda. As such, he can either continue his depraved life or redeem himself and change the world as the nun at the beginning of the movie suggests. The movie tries to be a social commentary about immigration, health care, and social classes. However, it does not do a good job. Unfortunately, it is also not fun and not entertaining.