Thursday, August 15, 2013

Film Review: Neill Blomkamp's Elysium

As creative and extraordinary as Neill Blomkamp's first film, District 9, was, that is how non-creative and unextraordinary his second film is.  As exciting and groundbreaking as District 9 was, that is just how pedestrian and generic Elysium happens to be.  It's a shame really.  A big shame.  A huge shame because the potential that District 9 handed out (it was on my best of 2009 list) for the South African director's next film was seriously through the roof.  Through the freakin' roof.  And this potential just makes it even more sad that Blomkamp's follow-up is, ordinary.  Quite sad indeed.

Elysium is the story of a future Earth where all the haves live on the titular rotating space station and the have-nots reside on an overcrowded and dystopicstars Earth.  Matt Damon, as buff and as bald as can be, stars as a down-and-out Earther who must fight his way off-world to save himself, the daughter of a long lost childhood love, and pretty much all the other 99 percenters doing their time on bad old Earth.  The story is rather ordinary, and has been done better before, most notably in the 1990 Total Recall (forget the remake from last year), and the way it is presented could not be more cliche-addled than it is.  Full of mediocre action sequences and oh so obvious so-called twists and turns, Blomkamp's film ends up being nothing more than a sad mirror image of the greatness that was District 9.  And even worse, that potential that came with District 9, shoulda, woulda, coulda been exploited here, if only given a better treatment.

The film is full of stereotypes and all the usual tired tricks and tropes, including a strangely accented Jodie Foster as the sternly frigid Secretary of Defense (seriously, does she need the money this badly?), an arrogant villain that will stop at nothing shy of death, and an inevitable one at that, and the aforementioned little girl at death's door and her mother, the love the hero's life that he will be forced to sacrifice himself for in the end, again, inevitably so.  To beat the proverbial dead horse, as fresh as District 9 was, Elysium is that sour, or to be more precise, that bland and expected.  Perhaps if Blomkamp's film, instead of being the pedestrian creature that it is, was more of a mitigated disaster, it might of at least had some much needed oomph to its belly, even if that oomph was rotten.  Instead we get just another tired mainstream actioner - a creature with no oomph whatsoever.  Sad really, and a shame indeed.

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