Max finds himself in the year 2154 where Earth has become an overpopulated, disease ridden slum. After suffering a life threatening accident, he teams up with a group of rebels in an attempt to break into the wealthy operated, disease free space utopia in Elysium.
I had been looking forward to Elysium for one main reason. That reason being I really, really liked District 9. I mean I really loved that movie, so I wanted to see what else Neill Blomkamp could bring to the table. In the end I wouldn't say Elysium was bad but it wasn't all I thought it was going to be. I did enjoy it but there were certain issues that I had a hard time looking past.
Starting with the plot, I thought the basic outline was flawless. The story was good, the characters had purpose, and they had a great main character in Max. I'm not the biggest Matt Damon fan but he really put it all on the table here and it showed. I applaud him, for sure. The issues I had weren't so much with the plot itself, but with the script. I have seen others say this as well, but it didn't feel completed and the story was very underdeveloped. The first half of the movie was very focused and detailed and in the last half it got really fast paced and felt like they were skipping over a lot of key elements that needed a little more time. They just threw it in front of the audience and basically told us to roll with it. It had very poor pacing and parts that didn't need to drag did while other parts that needed the time didn't get it.
As far as the casting goes I think Blomkamp had a better cast this time around, but he didn't really utilize everyone to their full potential. I mentioned Damon already, but actors like Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley were extremely effective while on screen, but they weren't on screen enough, especially Foster. She was the main villain in this movie and I bet you she didn't have more than 15min of total screen time. The longest she was really on screen was when she was discussing contract renewal with William Fichtner. As for Copley, Blomkamp wasted his biggest talent. He is a fantastic actor and the character he was playing was so insane and villainous that he not only should have been the main villain, but should have had even more development than he did. They threw his character at us as a sleeper agent and then all of a sudden he is an evil guy who wants to take over Elysim. It was a bit out of sorts. Of course that has a lot to do with character development.
I think Blomkamp focused on certain characters a lot more than he needed to. I think Spider, the main rebel leader, had more character development than the villains they were trying to defeat. Hell, the minor characters had more connection to the audience and more development than William Fichtner's character and he was a pretty integral part of the plot.
Apart from that, I think Elysium just focused on special effects and action sequences. I mean, they worked and they looked great but they didn't have a very strong plot to back them up. It was basically telling us, hey we put Matt Damon in a cool robotic exoskeleton. Come watch him blow stuff up. Maybe that's why my theater on a Saturday only had 14 people including myself.
The set design was well done, though. I got to a point where I forgot I was watching a movie while watching scenes on Earth. The gritty feel and the depiction of Earth's citizens was very believable and well done. I will give them that.
And, just because I have to mention it, Jodie Foster had some of the worst ADR I have ever seen. About 90% of the time it was very obvious that her lips didn't match the words her character was speaking. It's almost like she filmed the movie and then changed her mind on what she wanted her character to sound like so they dubbed the audio. The only problem is the audio didn't match the film. It was terribly distracting.
Like I said, despite the problems I did manage to enjoy Elysium. It missed a lot of marks but I wouldn't give it an overall rating lower than a C. It is worth a watch but Neill Blomkamp had a lot more bite with District 9. I think he is just going to have a hard time beating himself out.
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