Saturday, September 21, 2013
Belated Elysium Review
Okay, me and the wife just wanted to go out to a movie tonight, so I noticed Elysium was still playing, and we went. I thought, well, it's going to be great effects flick, and I'll just enjoy all that stuff. Director Neil Blomquist sure served up a load of excellent EFX in District 9, and I had a pretty good time with that movie, even though it was pretty dumb, almost too dumb for me to have a pretty good time with...boy was that flick stupid. I continue to be amazed by filmmakers---who must be rather tech-savvy---being so alarmingly ignorant of science; but they never seem to improve on that score.
Take that last Star Trek flick. The Enterprise guys want to make a volcano stop erupting (in order to save the lives of Spock and some aliens), so they send down a cold fusion device to freeze the insides of the volcano---as if cold fusion has anything to do with freezing things. In that last Batman movie, you've got a cold fusion reactor whose fissionable material is decaying into something that will produce a nuclear explosion. The whole point of cold fusion is that you don't use fissionable material...and fissionable material gets less explosive as it decays, etc. Well, in District 9, you've got this alien goo which is necessary to run the alien technnology. It just happens to have the property of turning human beings into aliens if it gets squirted on them. Huh? Why? WTF? Moreover, when someone gets squirted on and starts turning into an alien, they keep on working physiologically anyway, even though their bodily systems are being supplanted by alien crustacean physiology, and one presumes, DNA. Moreover, the big alien ship operates on the goo. It seems to be parked over the shantytown in South Africa because it's out of goo and can't go home. The aliens have gone down to live in the shantytown, even though they've apparently brought enough goo with them to run the spaceship. All it takes to to run the spaceship is sufficient goo to fill a milkshake container, although a big mess of that goo gets squirted on Sharlto Copley, and starts to transform him...sheerly idiotic.
However, there were enough blowings-up and blood and gore and cool technology and creature designs to distract me.
Well, Elysium is maybe even dumber and rather boring to boot. Also most leftwing, in a really stupid way that distorts the storytelling. Given what the people up in Elysium can do, you just can't figure out why they wouldn't make things a bit better on earth....but I'm getting ahead of myself here.
Now get this. The evil Republicans on the orbitting space-station have a process called re-atomization(!) which will fix everything that's wrong with you in a matter of seconds. Yep, re-atomization. They flip a switch, run some electricity through their machine, and redo every cell in your body. They're hellbent on denying this to the rest of us, even though it's just that easy. The evil security chief (played with a bizarre accent by Jodie Foster, who looks like she's been repeatedly microwaved) has an evil assassin (played by Sharlto Copley, who seems to have wandered in from the Road Warrior)...the whole front of his head gets blown off at one point. They put him on the re-atomizer table, hit the switch, and, bing! the whole front of his head regrows in a matter of seconds. He looks all young and much better across the board. Seeing as how he does all this dirty work for the security chief, you'd think he would've been rewarded with a facelift a long time ago...as a matter of fact, you'd think that Jodie Foster would never have let herself grow old, and need to have her face microwaved, but nothing about this movie makes any sense.
The various premises are that earth is polluted and overpopulated, and all the evil rich people live in the space-station, which looks like circular California. All the assholes that made this flick probably live in the present day equivalent, and can afford much better healthcare than you and I, including the cosmetic surgery that created Matt Damon's ridiculous Peter Pan nose. Never mind that after completing their preachy shoots every day, Matt and Jodie and whoever undoubtedly retreated to someplace like Elysium...left the shitty Mexican favelas they were filming in, to go to some swank hotel in Mexico City or whatever.
Anyway, they've got re-atomizers up in space assholeland. As we learn at the end of the movie, they've got enough re-atomizers stored away somewhere to fix everything on everybody on earth...never mind that Elysium just doesn't seem to have many people on it, and you can't figure out where they're keeping all these extra re-atomizers, or why they need them. Now...seeing as how the space assholes seem to be ruling earth, you would think that their henchmen below would live in enclaves that would have re-atomizers...certainly, the space assholes would want to have some in case there was an accident when they visited, whatever. Undoubtedly, there would be all sorts of great places down here still, seeing as how they can make a big space station, right? Nah. If you want to get re-atomized, you gotta go up to Elysium. I bet they keep all the toilets up there too.
So you have Matt Damon, an ex car-thief who was raised by an inspiring nun (at least the movie isn't an exercise in Catholic-bashing!). Evil Republican robots roust him and break his limbs for no reason, and he works making something for an evil capitalist. The factory's got a chamber where you'll get irradiated if you're stuck inside. His evil boss makes him go inside to clear a jammed...thing. The chamber closes. Matt Damon gets irradiated. The chamber has a sensor that can tell if there's someone trapped inside, but it doesn't have an automatic cutoff. Guys have to come to pry the door open or whatever. Why don't they have a cutoff? Because Neil Blomkamp doesn't know anything about anything except doing good special effects. And oh, yes, because the company is evil.
They give Matt pills and send him on his way. He's been irradiated so badly that he might irradiate someone else, like you'd x-ray someone else if you'd been given a big dose of x-rays (Mr. Blomkamp seems to have been learning about radiation from the guys who made the Batman flick). Matt's going to die in five days, although the pills will keep him going, in some sense. He's been irradiated so badly that he's going to have complete organ shutdown, but he can take pills, which are apparently made by elves. Now, the reason you die and get complete organ failure when you've been irradiated is because you've had something like a zillion little bullets which have just gone through every cell in your body.
But Matt can take a pill!
He doesn't want to die, though, and thinks he can get re-atomized if only he can get up into Elysium. There's a criminal mastermind/revolutionary guy who can make this happen, if only Matt will do him a favor, namely, get some information out of some capitalist's head and onto a chip or whatever. Of course, Matt wouldn't have to go to Elysium if he wasn't fucked up...but he's pretty helpless as is. He'd need what would have to be a pretty expensive high-tech exo-skeleton to fulfill his mission. But why would anyone give him one of those, when they could just slap it on someone who wasn't dying of "total organ failure"? It's like that stuff in Robocop, where they want to use the brain of a guy who's just taken one through the head in order to make their cybernetic organism. Why not get someone whose brains haven't been reamed out?
But I digress.
Matt and some other guys go after the guy who owns the factory where Matt was irradiated. Just so happens this guy is involved in a plan to overthrow the government...evidently this involves "rebooting" Elysium...why Jodie Foster just doesn't send guys with guns to take down her superiors, I don't know, but this is The Future here. After downloading the contents of the capitalist noggin, Matt runs afoul of the aforementioned Sharlto Copley. The film degenerates into a lot of stupid chases and explosions...among other things, barbaric Sharlto dispatches victims with a samurai sword, and while I'm all for that, just about everything about The Future just seems like shittified stuff right here on earth now, including the cars and the clothes and the teapots and the guns and whatever, even though we're supposedly a hundred and fifty years hence.
Although they do have re-atomizers, naturally.
Okay, the plan for rebooting Elysium (or the coup or whatever that the capitalist has devised) winds up in Matt's head...Sharlto (who's generally unintelligible) gets hold of him and decides he wants the info, and takes him and Sonia Braga's dishy neice Ana and her daughter (who has leukemia) up to Elysium. It's taken us forever to get to the titular place...mostly we've been slithering around in sweaty stinky third-world stuff. But even though Elysium is an awesome special effect, well...we don't see much of it. We really don't. You'd think the people who made this thing would've said...let's contrive a big climax utilizing this fantastic backdrop like a big circular California.
But no, we don't get that. We have to settle for a lot of stupid chase and gunfight stuff in not particularly interesting interiors, involving Sharlto deciding to take the info from Matt Damon and become the ruler of Elysium, which he intends to reboot and rule with his two or three lackeys, after icing Jodie Foster. As for security guys on Elysium, there are four or five of them, and the President of the Republic or whatever accompanies them to gunbattles. The big finish is a really boring shaky-cam fistfight between Matt Damon and Sharlto on a catwalk.I guess that this hohummery is supposed to be interesting because they've both got exo-suits on...but it just seems exactly like a fistfight on a catwalk. Sharlto gets blown up, but Matt downloads reboot orders that turn everyone on earth into a citizen of Elysium and make it possible for everyone to be re-atomized all the time, all fifty billion of us, or however many of us there are in the terrible overpopulated future...the end.
Oh yeah, and the little girl gets her leukemia cured, not that we care.
This thing didn't do too well...it alienated me before it even opened, and I gather it did the same to a lot of other folks who'd have been its natural audience. Deciding to rise above my prejudices, I went and got spanked. Please, please you cinematic artistes, I beg you. If you're going to serve up your lefty agitprop SF, try to learn something about science, or just plain life, for that matter. And don't give us a largely Elysium-free climactic fistfight on a catwalk in a movie called Elysium.