Elysium

Written & directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, sorta
Rating: 1.5 stars (of 5)

Elysium, the new science fiction adventure by writer/director Neill Blomkamp, leaves viewers with more questions than answers.  Chief among them:

  • Who thought this would be a good movie?
  • Who knew a sci-fi movie could have an ending more stupid and cheap than Independence Day‘s “hack the alien ship with a Mac”?  Were there Vegas odds on that?  Did someone’s longshot just come in big?
  • How much credibility as a box-office draw does Matt Damon lose on this?
  • What the hell was Jodie Foster thinking, and what’s with that stupid accent?
  • Can I have my two hours back?

We see a Los Angeles that’s gone feral, sort of low-grade Road Warrior, in 2154.  What we were calling the One Percent during the Occupy movement have bugged off to big, pristine space station that makes a Star Trek set look grubby, and everyone is beautiful and slick and they have machines that can heal any disease instantly.  Down on earth, everyone is grubby, poor, and very, very sick.  Matt Damon dreams of getting up to the big space station someday, even though you can’t, if you’re not a “citizen” of Elysium, but when he finds out he has only five days to live, he decides to do crazy stupid things to get into orbit.

That’s the story.  Matt’s in it for himself, but he accidentally has the key to taking down Elysium entirely.  Of course, that can’t mean destroying the evil place, because then we might start to get some inappropriate thoughts about the McMansions in Silicon Valley and the Hamptons.  What Matt does is find a way to share Elysium with all of impoverished humanity, but the film accomplishes this in a way so stupid that all through the last act, the audience actually laughed at every new plot point.

Damon’s character is unlikable, unknowable and uninteresting, and is surrounded by characters who are more interesting (a friend, a potential love interest, elysium03the love interest’s dying child, the computer-hacking freedom fighter) but never given any reason to be there.

Speaking of which, Jodie Foster is Elysium’s scheming secretary of defense, a ruthless would-be tyrant who sees herself as the only one on Elysium with the balls to lead, and therefore she plans a coup and sets much of the plot in motion.  And then later just dies.  She’s one of the best and most interesting actors of her generation, and her roll in this movie is, essentially, to sic an ugly mercenary with an incomprehensible accent after Matt Damon.  If you replaced her character with a computer protocol that automatically targeted Damon, the film would be no different.  It’d be better, because I wouldn’t be embarrassed for the computer protocol.

By the end, Damon has bolted his brain and body into a powerful, elysium02clunky exoskeleton, and so has the mercenary who represents his true adversary (not the actual super-rich scumbags, interestingly), and they fight it out in relatively uninteresting ways until something happens that defies all logic and sense to make the world all better, unless of course the evil plutocrats running Elysium just, you know, decide to reverse what Damon has done, but … nah.  What are the odds?

This movie is a piece of junk.  Sure, there have been a lot of disappointing action movies this summer, but Iron Man 3 and Star Trek: Into Darkness were well-made films that made some dumb, dumb story choices.  Yes, J.J. Abrams is not recognized as the too-slick hack that he mostly is, and he doesn’t get Star Trek at all but he paid off all his jackass choices.  This film is just laughably, tedious bad after laying out just enough goodness to give us false hope.