Elysium (2013) *1/2
Dir: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Bigger isn't necessarily better. They say it's what you do with your "package" that counts. Neill Blomkamp's follow-up effort to his exceptional SF thrill-fest District 9 is big, all right, but Elysium is so pulsatingly engorged and bombastically clumsy that its wads keep blowing, but they're blanks and the unhappy viewer will find themselves saddled with little more than a beached whale of a movie.
For all its jangling urgency, Elysium is inert.
Part of the problem is the familiar dystopian backdrop to a slender narrative that never rises above the predictable. Gosh, golly and gee - slap my face with thine meaty muscle - it appears, from the opening frames, that the world has become an over-populated hellhole.
I bet you didn't see that one coming.
The upper crust, you see, has fled the planet to reside on a humongous luxury space station which revolves in a spectacular view for all the dregs of humanity to see. The Totalitarian rich folk defend their pristine new world with every weapon at their disposal. The real power is the head of security, a perversely sexy and boner-enticingly pinched Jodie Foster (armed with an awful South African accent). Though her liberal bosses try to quash her over-zealous actions, she ultimately gets carte blanche to protect the space station at all costs.
Ex-con and exploited worker Matt Damon has always dreamed of living on the space station. When he suffers an industrial accident that will kill him in a matter of days, he becomes hell-bent on getting to the Shangri-la in the sky where the means to cure him exist. Conveniently, his on-again-off-again girlfriend, a nurse, has a child that's also stricken with a deadly ailment needing the curative benefits available on the space station.
Worst of all is the narrative, such as it is, a meagre excuse for Blomkamp to tire us out with a steroid-enhanced series of muscular, but thoroughly uninteresting set pieces. Since Matt has been partially restored as a cyborg, he is able to download the apace station's entire mainframe on his otherwise empty cerebellum.
Oops, this won't do at all. Our stiff-jawed hero needs to be apprehended - preferably alive since he now holds the only keys to the kingdom. It is, indeed, double-trouble-time, folks. Blomkamp gets to foist a whole mess of efficiently rendered, but ultimately dull explosions, hand-to-hand tussling and gunplay upon us - all accompanied by a big, booming, self-important score that underlines just how big it all is. His screenplay is littered with all manner of social commentary, but unlike the clever narrative of District 9, it never feels integral to the whole, but shoehorned into the proceedings as if to remind us (and perhaps Blomkamp) that maybe, just maybe, the movie isn't quite as hollow and stupid as it is.
It's the movie that just keeps on going with no seeming end in sight, like some vibrating mega-dildo cutting swaths blindly, powered by the Energizer Bunny and not much else (certainly no wit and originality), and worst of all, with no seeming end in sight. Then, as Elysium finally deigns to release its climactic goo, it does so only because the movie has exhausted itself and by extension, the audience as well.
"Elysium" is in mega-wide theatrical release via Sony Pictures.