Nonstop Movies: ‘Elysium’

I wasn’t sure if “Elysium” was a real word, so I looked it up and found the following definition – “a place or state of perfect happiness.” How fitting, because I’m always very happy when I’m asleep.

elysium01This film is a big bore. It doesn’t go anywhere and worse, it takes forever to get there. The story takes place in the year 2154, when the Earth has turned into a global slum and the rich (the 1%?) have left to live in a space station called Elysium. There is no war, crime or disease in Elysium, just endless cocktail parties apparently. Max (Matt Damon) is an ex-convict stuck on Earth who’s dreamed of living on Elysium since he was a child. When an industrial accident gives him radiation poisoning leaving him with just five days to live, he works with an underground group to meld a metal exoskeleton to his body that will help him enter Elysium and hopefully allow for the sick on Earth to get well using Elysium’s advanced healing technology.

Damon has never really been a dynamic actor, and he usually excels when playing a relatable everyman. So his role in Elysium should have played to this strength, but I could never find myself rooting for Max. He’s not really likable and only turns noble in the latter part of the film. By that time, I had already tuned out. That’s because the story just plods along at a snail’s pace with little or no drama along the way. It’s obvious Max ultimately will enter Elysium, but it takes forever for him to get there. Even Jodie Foster couldn’t make the film interesting. Playing the guardian of Elysium, she isn’t given any opportunities to command the screen, so the result is a surprisingly bland performance with a very strange, unrecognizable accent. Only Sharlto Copely as a rogue Elysium agent makes things exciting for small bits with his scenery chewing performance. At least someone had a good time making this film.

elysium02After a summer movie season full of superheroes, spaceships, zombies and kaiju, audiences have seen it all in regards to CGI, so “Elysium” would have to show something really memorable to make an impact. Unfortunately it’s also terribly bland visually, offering nothing new. Even the action scenes are shot with some of the worst shaky-cam work I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t tell what was going on during the fight scenes, and with all the random steel and limbs flying around, you could’ve slipped in some short clips of Optimus Prime fighting Megatron and I wouldn’t have been able to tell. I actually had to close my eyes for a few seconds during the shaky-cam scenes just to prevent my eyes from going into convulsions.

Writer and director Neill Blomkamp made a big splash with his film debut “District 9,” even garnering a nomination for Best Picture, but “Elysium” is an uninspired sophomore effort. There are too many similarities to his first film both in theme and visual style. It’s like he’s telling the same story again, and this time I just didn’t care.

“Elysium,” 109 minutes, is Rated R and opens in theaters today.