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Elysium: movie review

After seeing the trailer when we went to see Word War Z, I really wanted to see Elysium. I heard reports of what a great movie it was. Icing on the cake was Matt Damon criticising Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers when he visited to promote the movie.

Mr O and I saw Elysium last night. It seems to me Hollywood has become so tied up in special effects and computer generated “stuff” they have forgotten the foundation of any GREAT movie is a damn good story!

Elysium has a great story concept, but the concept is not followed through: because of this in my view the movie didn’t deliver.  There were continuity problems: a main character dies at one point and I have no idea why the killer dispatched the character. The computer cables had some very out-dated looking connectors on them, although the majority of viewers may not notice. Heard of mini-USBs, guys? There is a fight scene that, while quite good choreography, doesn’t seem to make sense in the overall plot. The scene when Max (Matt Damon) breaks his arm carries meaning and message: the rest of the movie needed to be the same quality as that scene.

Much time was spent on childhood flashbacks: this may have been better spent on providing a deeper look at the world. What was the President actually president of? The world? Elysium? The USA? The context was missing. Where were all the Chinese and Indians, the two population groups that account for the majority of the world’s population today?  To me, a good movie transports the viewer into the world created by the movie. A great movie either answers story questions or is powerful enough to enable the viewer to suspend belief and happily ignore questions: Elysium did neither.

The concept of every man, woman and child living on earth suffering oppression and persecution is not so far-fetched if we look at the world today in 2013, let alone some 141 years hence. 99% of the world population as asylum seekers: great plot potential. I think back to Blood Diamond, another story of oppression and persecution. The characters were well-rounded, the movie had credibility and we were not left feeling half the plot was missing.

The two main female characters were at the extremes of the spectrum (nurturer to Nazi), but then the male characters were extreme too. These are not well-rounded characters which may simply mean that by 2154 we have all become extreme.

Overall, I think the movie is too short. Elysium could have benefited from more emphasis on the story and less on the special effects and fight scenes. Speaking of fights, I will never understand how people with fantastically destructive weaponry can miss the damn targets so often! I suppose it builds tension but in close combat it just looks, well, silly.

Is it worth seeing? Well, yes, it is entertainment but I don’t recommend you lash out for Gold Class! As a sci-fi fan, I wasn’t overly impressed. I’d rate it 5 or 6 out of 10. Matt Damon did the best he could with the script he was given. Jodie Foster, whom I consider a terrific actress, didn’t get to shine either.

Sahil Jon, from the other side of the world, has also written his thoughts on Elysium. Sahil sees some different issues which I found interesting and you might too, so I suggest you visit his review. He is tougher than I am! While we each saw different issues, we came to almost the same conclusion.

Yes, Sahil, it did have to potential to be a sci-fi classic. Sadly, it didn’t make it.

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15 comments on “Elysium: movie review

  1. […] co-worker had seen the movie and while he enjoyed it, he felt it was a bit like Elysium: great concept that perhaps didn’t deliver on screen as well as it could have. In my view it […]

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  2. […] the AV. While nothing would penetrate the vehicle shell, his sorrow was deep. He remembered seeing a movie when he was a child that in many ways had foretold the planet’s current state. That movie had […]

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  3. […] be a better option. Are we are so prissy we want to pretend Australia is some sort of  first world Elysium? Why aren’t we asking Canada (for example) to help? Lots of land, first world country, low […]

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  4. The film makes much more sense if you live in the US. This is where the context for the film is. It maps fairly well onto American Politics today. It addresses US political-economy in an effective and efficient manner.

    The film isn’t about the future obviously. It’s not even about the whole world. It’s about the “third-worldisation” of the US today, with the elite living in their gated communities while the masses of humanity, “minorities” and poor white people, wallow in the shantytowns, and crumbling cities. The President is the US President–a promoter of the Corporate State. Elysium is the Gated Community in which the Upper-Middle Class and Rich White People live.

    I don’t disagree that the film is problematic in many respects (particularly its rather traditional treatment of female characters). But in the end, I think the problems were outweighed by the rather blunt, but effective description of the US political-economic system. Americans have to be smacked in the face with something simple they can understand. And smuggling an anti-capitalist perspective into a Corporate film made for Americans requires big action and big special effects to get people to watch and film producers to make.

    In many respects, Elysium is a modern take on the Original Star Trek episode, The Cloud Minders. Though, perhaps the ST episode is even more clear and consistent in its couched political economic analysis. If you haven’t seen it in a while, it is worth watching to compare with Elysium…

    http://www.cbs.com/shows/star_trek/video/649123691/star-trek-the-original-series-the-cloud-minders

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    • I had read that, however I am not totally unfamiliar with the USA and the health system and other aspects of the economy and definition (or not) of public goods. :)

      I once had my best friend drive me through various trailer parks in Kansas just to see some of the hidden poor. I am well aware the McMansions we see on TV are not how the majority live. I have read about the thousands living underground in disused tunnels in one (if not more) major cities.

      I went into the movie expecting better quality. Once I got into the movie, I couldn’t “get” whether it was, as I had expected, USA-centric or not. That was ambiguous to me, despite what I had already read about it. I accept that the USA may (as is typical :razz:) seen the movie as being “all about them”. :lol:

      I thought the best scene in the movie was the door jam and the radiation exposure. That sent the message loud and clear the proletariat were merely slaves to the landed gentry. The plot and continuity problems elsewhere let the movie down in my opinion. Those damn cable connectors still rankle! :lol:

      As a BIG BIG ST fan, I’m going off to watch the episode you provided right now! :D

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  5. I don’t bother watching films anymore. I’ve seen all the plots that are good and seems to me that Hollywood is scraping the barrel for any last scraps of good plots. I didn’t bother with the last Bond film and I’ve been a fan of Ian Fleming for decades. I didn’t watch the latest Die Hard movie either and I was an avid action film fan. Sadly as you quite rightly point out most modern films are substance over content. Personally I’ve gone back to books for original entertainment and many of the ‘new’ plots in films are poorly created versions of great books. Since special effects can do what our imaginations did years ago the film makers have been blinded by their new found ability to depict anything in a film, but, as you rightly point out, what gets lost is the most interesting aspect of any narrative and that’s the human angle. As an e-book author I can say that there are lot of great stories being told by indie publishers, stories that the authors wouldn’t have been able to share a decade ago. I say skip the cinema and go to the library, book store or e-book store and you’ll find great stories and they’ll be brought alive by the best special effects system ever to exist; the human imagination. As for the plot of Elysium as described by yourself it seems like it’s a dressed up, suped up 1984 or Fahrenheit 451 or …. well check the science fiction aisle of the library for the great future dystopian stories and all for free.

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    • I just watched that trailer you posted up there and it half reminds me of the plot of a book called ‘Daz 4 Zoe’ which is about a a rich poor divide in Britain, in the future, and it also reminds me of several other books I’ve read, but can’t immediately place. Seems to me they took a story that’s as old as such work as poetic ballads about Robin Hood etcetera and they’ve pursued the ‘chosen one’, e.g King Authur (TS White ‘The Once And Future King), route and then ignored all the good aspects of the ‘errant knight’ story and created game console footage, with as much dramatic depth. Anyway that’s just my opinion.

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    • Oh yeah and finally… isn’t Elysium just depicting what Karl Marx said would be the ultimate end point of capitalism; a very few rich and a mass of poor… my post Marxist vision is an eventual return to nomadic hunter gathering for the human race, after capitalism collapses and 90% of the human race have died out for various reasons. I give it about 100 years before we get to that point though.

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    • Richard, I agree whole-heartedly re the films these days. I did like Blood Diamond though, if you haven’t seen it, give it a try! Whitewash is also good.

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  6. Have not seen it yet Robyn but mainly due to the fear that since the Director is also the guy who did District 9 for Peter Jackson it might not live up to expectation. From what you say itsounds like the Hollywood Bandwagon has rundown the plot again unlike District 9 which largely Inde & xHollywood?

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    • I think it is worth seeing, but don’t expect too much and you’ll probably see the action entertainment value. Watch out for a very good scene after he breaks his arm. You will know it when you see it but trying to avoid a spoiler here! Pity the whole movie doesn’t have the same depth.

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  7. I too was disappointed. So much potential, so many possibilities for teasing out the implications of today’s vast poverty and refugee situation. But it all petered out.

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