Elysium  (2013)

150 years in the future, Earth has become overwhelmed with disease and poverty. The average person is struggling to survive in this dystopia, while a group of people have escaped to "Elysium", an orbiting satellite designated for only the rich and powerful. The concept is interesting, but the execution falls short.

Matt Damon plays Max, a man who spent his youth stealing cars and committing other crimes to survive in the wasteland of Los Angeles. He has been trying to live on the straight and narrow, getting a job in a factory that produces the police robots that control the city. A workplace accident (that was 100% avoidable) leaves Damon with radiation poisoning, and only five days to live. He pleads with his old crime boss friend to get him on a pirate spaceship to Elysium, where there are medical beds that can cure any disease. The boss agrees, but only if Max performs one more heist, involving codes that can control every aspect of Elysium.

There are plenty of plot holes and unexplainable character actions, from the lead roles to supporting ones. The "science" aspect of "science-fiction" is mostly ignored. Max is weak and nauseous from the radiation, so he is outfitted with a metal exoskeleton to give him more power. The crime boss apparently just had an extra metal exoskeleton lying around, just waiting for a time to use it. The mob set up in L.A. also had a strange modus operandi of getting people to Elysium for treatment: they just launched them in a shoddy spaceship headed for the station. A number of ships got shot down before they could even reach, while the ones that would land had to break into a house, use a fake biological identification card to use the healing machine, then hope the police wouldn't arrive before they were done.

I loathed the acting in this movie. Matt Damon is what he is, usually able to blend the "tough guy" with the "fun guy" attitudes, but here he is unable to pull off the "hardened criminal with a bunch of tattoos" look. Jodie Foster was a wreck. Her voice/accent were completely off, to the point where it seemed like she was actually dubbing all of her lines in after the fact. It was as though she had done the movie without any accent, then in post-production the director decided she should have one, so they went and re-recorded all her lines. The main villain Kruger is played by District 9's Sharlto Copely. Copely is South African, and while that accent worked for District 9, it felt like he was exaggerating it himself to the point of caricature. Even the crime boss Spider, just speaking in a Spanish accent, was so over-the-top I had to rewind a few times to figure out what he was saying, until I got tired of that and just ignored him.

A lot of the science just didn't make sense. If the gangsters had the ability to get spaceships up to Elysium and back, why not just steal one of the medical beds and bring it back to Earth?  Why didn't a space station have a force field or even a roof, how did Elysium's atmosphere not just disappear into space? Who was running Elysium, the United States government, a world government? If only elite bourgeois lived on Elysium, where were they getting the medical beds (I doubt they had any common laborers)? So many things just took me completely out of the movie and totally destroyed my suspension of disbelief.

The only redeeming qualities were some impressive CGI, and the character of Kruger. Kruger's accent might have been hard to understand, but the crazy efficiency with which he carried out his duties were enjoyable.


On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, "Elysium" gets a 2 out of 10.