Saturday, August 10, 2013

Film Review - Elysium

Director Neill Blomkamp makes his long anticipated return to the screen with his second feature Elysium. Sci-Fi fans have waited not so patiently for a follow up to his first feature the visually stunning  and unique District 9.

Blomkamp a graduate of Vancouver Film schools 3D Animation and Visual Effects program has a seamless method of combining special effects and live acting that continues in Elysium. Blomkamp eye for robot construction is unmatched. In 2154 robots are the police on earth, homeland security on Elysium, parole officers and conduct most of the manual labour tasks. They show no favouritism,  cannot be influenced or corrupted.  They follow the law to the letter. If a law or rule changes they follow that new rule regardless if that rule changes the status of someone from a target to a citizen in a matter of moments.

Dystopian earth in the year 2154 is overrun by population, disease and lawlessness. The rich build a space station in the sky and leave taking all of the top technological and scientific achievements with them to a paradise orbiting a 19 minute shuttle ride away above the earth. They have devices that are cross between a tanning bed and a MRI machine that if you have a citizen implant detects your disease then eliminate it within a couple of minutes.  The integration of the construction of the station the lush green fields, beautiful homes, ample lakes and rivers on Elysium are visually stunning.

The story centers around Max (Matt Damon) a former car their who is on parole and working on the line in a plant that makes robots. After an accident in the plant Max takes a job from his old underworld contacts in exchange for a ticket to Elysium to cure the malady he contracted at the plant.  Max is reunited with his childhood soulmate Frey (Alice Braga) who has a daughter in the last stages of leukemia and also requires treatment on Elysium. The job does not go as planned the strike team is intercepted by an earth based team of disavowed agents. Max does get information from the target that turns out to be more important than his sponsors could have expected.

The best part and worst part of the film are interrelated.  All scenes are essential to the plot.  A good example is the sequence that starts with Max confronting a police robot while lining up for a bus.  The confrontation ends with a broken wrist which leads to a reunion with Frey at the hospital, his job being threatened on the line and the decision to take a risk at work that causes his illness and nothing to loose attitude. The fact that the scenes work to move the film along takes something away from character development.  There are no arcs, the cast do not grow from the first time you see them on screen until the last act. This hurts the audience ability to develop a rooting interest for any of the actors  which is essential to making a memorable film that will stick with the viewer.

Visually dazzling in scope depth and detail quickly paced but suffering from a lack of character   advancement Elysium is a film that will appeal to Sci-fi fans that have a love for the ongoing integration between humans and robots in a future society. But if it's a strong story featuring participants that change, grow and fall as the story progresses it's not a film that I can recommend.

**1/2 out of 4.

Elysium | Neill Blomkamp | U.S.A. | 2013 | 109 Minutes.

Tags: Utopia, Dystopia, Los Angeles, Robots, Elite, Masses, Disease, Agents, 1% vs. 99%

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