Written and Directed by Neill Blomkamp
Starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley
Max: What’s in it for the hippo?
You may or may not have noticed in recent years that the divide between the have’s and the have not’s in Western civilization is getting wider and wider. Perhaps you’ve even heard the expression, “1% of the country’s population controls 99% of the wealth”, which isn’t so much an expression as it is a sobering fact. Writer/Director, Neill Blomkamp (DISTRICT 9) is definitely aware of this increasing gap between the classes. In fact, he has gone one step further and turned this daunting situation into a full out war in his latest film, ELYSIUM, a film that exploits this frightening concept for entertainment purposes and then proceeds to only be half entertaining.
It is now 2154. Earth as you and I know it has been ravaged by pollution and disease. The 1% have abandoned ship. They now live on a space station called Elysium, where they can enjoy their luxurious lives, free of any disease or death, and be far, far away from the dirty, disgusting scourge of poor people left behind to rot and die on Earth. How’s that for an increased differential between the classes? One of Earth’s inhabitants, Max, played by a rather beefy, Matt Damon, is destined to save all of humanity and we know this because a nun said as much to him when he was a kid. After an unfortunate mishap on his assembly line job leaves him with only five days left to live, he knows that he needs to get up to Elysium post haste if he is ever going to survive and fulfill the destiny that he seems to have squandered. Little does he know, his dangerous trip to Elysium is his destiny.
In order to engage the viewer on his over simplification of a complex subject, Blomkamp hypes up the hard artillery and special effects. Elysium, the place in space and not the movie, is as pristine as you would imagine a world untouched by the evolution of time and the devaluation that comes along with it. To break into it, Damon’s Max must get a ship into their airspace illegally, which is made difficult by Secretary of Defense, Delacourt, played by Jodie Foster as a French woman who speaks English with a clearly fake French accent. To do this in his weakened state, he must be fitted with an exoskeleton that is drilled into his existing bone structure. Suddenly, Damon is a superhuman with immense strength, which he will need to take on the madness and mayhem that comes in the form of another enhanced human, Kruger (played by Blomkamp favourite, Sharlto Copley). While some of this action is pretty impressive, none of it is so good that you ever forget that its merely a distraction.
In DISTRICT 9, Blomkamp’s breakout feature that went on to garner an unexpected Best Picture Oscar nomination, was a brilliantly disguised science-fiction piece that commented on the apartheid in South Africa, where the director hails from, while blowing the viewer away with a style that felt original and alive. ELYSIUM is nowhere near as subtle nor anywhere near as effective unfortunately. Blomkamp imagines an exacerbated version of our current financial state but does not dig any deeper to understand how it may have come to this in the first place. He just pits poor man against rich man, painting the poor as unruly and uncivilized, and the rich as harmonious and functional. Rich or not, people are people and you cannot convince me that the rich would not just eventually cause the same divides amongst themselves while left alone out in space. People will always want more than the next guy and after the promise of his first feature, I definitely wanted more out of ELYSIUM.
How many sheep would you give Elysium?