Monday, August 12, 2013

Film Review: Elysium (2013)

The quickest way to review Elysium would be to repost my Pacific Rim review and simply substitute one title for the other. In its fundamentals, Elysium is just as bad as Pacific Rim and in the same ways: the plot is simple enough for an eight-year-old to follow; the dialogue is never better than banal; and the action elements are tedious and repetitive. So I'll just point out some of Elysium's more unusual and egregious errors.

First off, if you're going to set a film 140 years in the future you might want to do some world-building, show us how radically things have changed in more than a century. Someone should have told Neil Blomkamp, the director and scriptwriter, that one of main delights of SF is imagining future worlds. In Elysium's future everyone still has the same clothes, hair, and slang. And plasma TVs are still around? Seriously? We're even driving the same cars! The only thing that's noticeably different in this future is that Jodie Foster has become a really awful actor. She plays a villain, and does so with a staggering amount of facial tics and twitches, an accent that wanders around Europe and the eastern US, and some line readings that wouldn't pass muster in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Sharlto Copley almost matches Foster's ineptitude as a thuggish killer. And his character really is cartoonish; it's surprising Blomkamp didn't go the whole nine yards and give him horns and a forked tail.

What's most disappointing about Elysium is that Blomkamp's District 9 was such a brilliant film, deftly combining an intriguing, well-realized SF concept with drama, action and humour. It was the whole package. Elysium feels like it was quickly cobbled together by a hack director who was given a script that was rejected by the SyFy Channel. This is lazy, unimaginative filmmaking at its worst. But that's the way things are this year in the cinemas, and I'll have a post about the reasons why in the near future.

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