Note: I started college, so I don’t have as much time to access my computer because of orientation, but I plan on writing about my experiences so far at Hopkins! But just to give you an introduction, man…Hopkins is incredible. OK, on to the review :p. It’s kind of late to review it, but I recently just saw it, and I think it deserves some analysis! Enjoy my first movie review in several months!
Prior to watching “Elysium,” I remember sifting through interviews of director Neill Blomkamp talking about “Elysium,” and how it’s an analysis on the human condition and the current politics that strangle our society. This was the Blomkamp I have been waiting to see ever since “District 9”, however, when I finally saw it, I was strangely disappointed. It wasn’t necessarily a bad movie, however, it robbed me a bit of my humanity, and left me feeling worse on the inside.
Most people don’t realize this, but when you’re in the hands of a movie director, you subconsciously become impressionable to his vision and understanding of the world. I remember when I watched “Schindler’s List,” I was crippled emotionally by Spielberg’s powerful imagery that uncovered the despair behind the holocaust, while at the same time, humbled by the plight of the selfless factory owner, Oscar Schindler, who lied to the Nazis to save thousands of Jewish refugees. This film became my second World History class, but instead of taking notes in my spiral notebook, I became a firsthand witness and developed an understanding of how tragic these historical events were. I know this movie is nowhere close in replacing the actual sentiment of those affected by the Holocaust, but still, through “Schindler’s List,” I was allowed to empathize with an event that would have otherwise become another faceless piece of history.
“Elysium,” on the other hand, was something truly different. Instead of inducing any positive experiences and lessons for me to draw upon, I feel bitter, confused, and now less caring about sick children in wheelchairs in third world countries. Directed by Neill Blomkamp, who also directed “District 9,” “Elysium” is a poor sci-fi flick with a pretentious vision, as it pretends to tackle on political and sociological themes such as immigration, health care, and class issues, which adds little to nothing to the current debate on these issues.
Set in the year 2154, Earth has become overpopulated and unclean, which as a result, has caused the rich to leave and live on a luxurious space station called Elysium. While the wealthy enjoy living with the medical pods on Elysium that can make them younger and disease-free, the poor scramble to survive in the harsh living conditions and the heavily-policed streets. Max Da Costa (Matt Damon), lives in the ruins of Los Angeles, but when poisoned with radiation at his factory, he attempts to make an illegal break to Elysium to cure his sickness while at the same time, discovering a way for everyone on Earth to get instant medical access.
To be fair, there is a lot to like in “Elysium.” Sharlto Copley, who plays a psychopathic mercenary called Kruger, is a lot of fun to watch on screen, as his disregard for the law and vigilantism allow for plenty of exotic scenes where he’ll blow up shuttles of civilians and explode soldiers with “shruiken bombs” just to capture a single person. Unfortunately though, one shining character isn’t enough to pull the weight of a very fat movie that struggles to have an identity.
Like I said before, movie directors often have a way of captivating the attention of their audience through cinematography, which in turn allows them to see their vision. In the case of “Elysium,” I was captivated by the CGI effects, from the zoom-in to Elysium space station to the sweeping shots of the decrepit but overpopulated cities of Earth. However, when it came turn to see Blomkamp’s vision, I saw nothing, except a generic dystopia, with a generic corrupt politician, and a generic story of the lower class rising up that somehow contradicts with the themes Blomkamp tries to present.
If Earth was overcrowded with low class civilians with medical conditions, why “on Earth” would you give everybody free healthcare that would make them impervious to any disease or injury? Wouldn’t that just exacerbate the whole issue of Earth being overcrowded? Because of this contradiction, Blomkamp’s claim of how the wealthy strangle the lower class seems one dimensional, because if it weren’t for the strict immigration laws and regulations over the medical pod in the film, all of humanity would be doomed. While it’s easy to blame big government for the misfortunes of the lower class, which “Elysium” does exactly that, it doesn’t highlight anything that hasn’t been looked at previously in other more serious films.
To take this one step further, because of how weak the vision was in “Elysium,” I actually wanted to see the bad guys win for once, because the movie didn’t make me care at all about the children in wheelchairs. While it tries to make 2154 Los Angeles seem like a very hostile place to live in from the opening credits, it’s actually…not THAT bad, pretty decent living conditions. Having lived in China for two months, life in 2154 Los Angeles is pretty much just China with mean robots. On one corner there are children with doo rags running around smiling and playing on the swings, and on another corner there are children playing “Double Dutch” like it’s nobody’s business. People still have a roof over their head, and they can still partake in leisure activities such as drinking with coffee with office buddies. Occasionally, it can get very rough, especially with the strict law enforcement, but how is that any worse than Los Angeles right now? Sure, you do see plenty of sick children in wheelchairs, with their mothers pushing them to hospitals as I bet they are worried sick about them, but so many of them flash on the screen that you never really get a close look at any of them, so in the end, you feel indifferent to their woes. Unlike the aliens in District 9, not enough attention was placed on the daily struggles of life living in 2154 Los Angeles, making it kind of seem normal and tame. I would be more alarmed by the daily struggles in “Elysium,” but the glaring contradiction as noted above, along with the exotic arch villain, makes the villains pretty appealing to root for.
Unlike “Schindler’s List,” which reinforced its themes through well-written dialogue, black and white cinematography (with the occasional red), and a fantastic John Williams score that’s played over sweeping shots of the aftermath of WWII, “Elysium” doesn’t reinforce anything except throw at you staple scenes of children in wheelchairs strolling around. The children that do have legs get to run around in doo rags and play “Double Dutch.” That sounds pretty mean and cold, but…sigh, that’s how I feel after watching “Elysium.” It took the struggles of the day-to-day life of there on Earth seem mundane and uninteresting to look at, not to mention make the harsh regulations and laws created by the wealthy look like a necessary evil.
Most directors have a vision of what their story is going to be like, but I think Blomkamp unfortunately “tunnel-visioned” too hard on his.