Friday, 23 August 2013

Film Review: Elysium (2013)

Director: Neill Blomkamp
Writer: Neill Blomkamp
Stars: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley

Be aware: This review is spoiler-filled.
Neill Blomkamp’s idea for Elysium may be interesting and it may provoke some discussion on the class divisions in modern day society, but his screenplay for Elysium is the work of an adolescent boy let loose on a keyboard. This film is so unbelievably riddled with plot holes and story which defies all logic, it ranks alongside the worst films of the year.

Before tackling the seemingly endless list of problems in plot and story, it’s worth noting the directorial choices Blomkamp makes in this, his second film, are a huge regression from the talent for camera work he showed in 2009’s District 9. Blomkamp shoots the action with all the cinematic qualities of a computer game and at times the film resembles one even to the extent where the director frames Matt Damon’s movements like he is being controlled by the viewer during one action scene. The director relies on constant slow-motion to build what he might refer to as tension, and shaky cam is employed at every turn, often leaving the visuals indeterminable. It is the style of a hack or ‘director for hire’, not the style you would expect from a film maker looking to build on the surprise success of District 9 or suggest he a sci-fi auteur. Shamefully, the film is a total mess when ever action scenes are happening, and for a big budget spectacle looking to prove it’s better than the current crop of failures, Elysium is a non-starter.

The world Blomkamp creates is visually pleasing with the aesthetic differences between the savaged planet Earth and the pristine space station called Elysium where, we are informed, the richest, most important, and most influential members of the human race now live. However, Blomkamp’s script offers precious little exploration of this new world, leaving just spectacle as the glue to hold the story together. We hardly see anything about the life on Elysium and the politics or socio-economic climate on the station. How does this world function? Is there a class-war here? How is population controlled? So many questions which the film should have explored to give the audience an insight into the fictional world, but it barely scratched the surface; and with that comes my top 10 list of nonsensical and never-explained plot holes:

Why doesn’t Elysium have its own defence measures? 
We’re told this station in space is the place where the elite reside, and it has its own government and council, but why doesn’t it have a single spaceship defending it when unwanted ships approach? The station is populated by sophisticated robots, but seemingly no law enforcement. Furthermore, the scene where three ships approach carrying immigrants from Earth could have been filled with terrorists or nuclear devices, but Blomkamp apparently didn’t think this most glaring of omissions would be noticed.

Kruger; Murderer, rapist and the sole defender of Elysium. Obviously! 
Kruger, a man based on Earth, is secretly employed by a high ranking government official to do the dirty work on Earth. But why? Why doesn’t Elysium have its own established legal defences in place? Why does Kruger help out when he still lives the crappy life like everyone else on Earth, what’s in it for him? If he is just pure evil, why isn’t he leading the rebellion on Earth when the film begins?
Kruger is banned from being used

The President of Elysium puts a ban on Kruger being used by Elysium’s government, and he clearly passes a law which we see on screen. Yet, five minutes later he’s still able to go about his business shooting and blowing things up. So, what power do the government on Elysium have? Could this have been motivation for Kruger to go against Elysium and flesh out his character? Yes, but Blomkamp doesn’t give a damn about character or story in this film.

Machines which cure ANY health issues 
On Elysium there are machines which, at the touch of a button, cure any citizen of broken bones, leukaemia, or HAVING HALF YOUR FACE BLOWN APART as is the case later on. But why are these machines not on Earth? The film could so easily have said they are powered by a rare and extremely expensive material which only Elysium can afford, and that is why Earth cannot have it, but it’s never explained or hinted at once. Furthermore, when a ship crash lands on Elysium with citizens of Earth, it is never explained how any of them know A) the machines even exist or B) how to use them.

Download data from one mind to another 
It’s never explained how this is possible or why a security coding is placed to kill the person whose brain the data is inside. How does that help if the data is stolen? It makes not a shred of sense, even for a sci-fi film where anything is possible.

The exoskeleton suit – Part 1: What is it? 
On the posters for this film you’ll see Matt Damon wearing a black metal exoskeleton suit on his back. The film never explains where it came from, why there’s only one, if it’s ever been used before, why no one is freaking out that a man is walking around wearing it, and why is the criminal ‘mastermind’ who give it to him not wearing it himself if it’s so special? No a hint, we’re just supposed to accept it and shut up.

The exoskeleton suit – Part 2: Why does it not kill the person wearing it? 
It might look ‘cool’ but that’s before you realise the way its attached to him, a normal man who is at this point now suffering from severe radiation poisoning with only 5 days to live... is by LITTERALLY screwing and hammering it into his body. “But it’s done by professional healthcare workers?” you might ask; no, just some thugs in a basement. The suit is supposed to make him stronger but the screenplay’s solution is to have it screwed into his flesh and bone. Utter nonsense.

The exoskeleton suit – Part 3: Remind me again...what’s the point? 
The point is supposed to be to make Matt Damon walk and move with ease, but the ONLY reason the exoskeleton is in the film is so our ‘hero’ and our ‘villain’ can fight like robots in the final act. No other reason than that.

One dimensional female character required in third act? Apparently
The reason why Kruger, the villain only because the story dictates it needs one, takes a woman and her young daughter (who is conveniently suffering from an illness which could be cured by a machine her mother shouldn’t know exists and shouldn’t be able to use or even easily locate without being apprehend on Elysium) on a ship leaving for Elysium is screenwriting at its very worst. It’s never explained what he wants her for, why he shows a liking to her, why he says he was going to heal her child, or if he’s using her as a threat against Matt Damon. She’s just there, serving no purpose. At any stage. For the rest of the film. Ever.

The end 
Why does Kruger want to take over Elysium when he lands? Why does Jodie Foster’s character refuse treatment and choose to die? How can a man survive when half his head has been blown away? How can Kruger jump twenty feet in the air when his exoskeleton is only attached to his upper body? Why does the story dictate he needs to put on the exoskeleton? (see point 8 for the answer) Where is Elysium’s law enforcement?

Aside from all of this nonsense, let’s look at the final scene where a load of ships land on Earth carrying the ‘cure all’ machines. Who built these machines to travel to Earth? Why are they in existence? Every home on Elysium has one, so why would there be vessels to transport a mass of them? If everyone is cured all the time, would that not only worsen the population problems on Earth?

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: Elysium is a film with so many questions, these where just my personal favourites. The last time I was so incensed by a film to lead me to write a top 10 awful moments was Taken 2, and this is right up there with that pile of crap. Simply put, this is a massive waste of talent, money, and painfully, a shocking waste of a great concept.

1 comment:

  1. About last thing: why Kruger can jump so high - before that scene, when his face was reconstructed, his crew member says one to another "or remember when he lost his legs?". So you can assume that his legs aren't 100% natural (before you write something like "then why he didn't used the machine?" - remember? he was an agent, not very popular on Earth, so he might afford on for robotic legs covered with flesh or something like that).

    Everything else - well, couldn't agree more. But in the end, I enjoyed the movie.