I am a simple man with few needs. I see myself as a kind of Kwai Chang Caine, the David Carradine character from Kung Fu who is a solitary figure who roams the West looking for his half-brother using his incredible martial arts skills to get himself out of sticky situations he really didn't want to become involved with but did anyway because he knows what's right and what's wrong and is incredibly attractive to women because he's hot but he won't do anything about that because he's a decent sort of chap who is disciplined enough to know that he has to keep moving on looking for his half-brother. Of course I don't have the martial arts skills of Caine, and I pretty much avoid trouble at all costs, don't recall having much discipline at all when it came to getting involved with any attractive woman, only became a decent chap when I got married, and have spent my most of adult life roaming the West trying to avoid my family. But I am by and large a solitary figure, at least in a married sort of way.
I'm pretty sure that if ol' Kwai Chang were around today, like me, he would have simple tastes in movies. Give me a movie with space ships, robots and things blowing up, and my heart is filled, Grasshopper, with peace ... like a fawn resting on fresh clover. If there is enough hardware, and if things blow up well enough, then a plot, while appreciated, is optional.
Elysium opened this past week, and since it had the general shape of a film I would like, Sand and I went off to the movies. This movie is set in the year 2154. The Earth is in shambles, overpopulated, run down, crime-ridden, policed and administered by robots, filled with poor people kept poor by a wealthy elite who live in the idyllic environment of an orbiting space habitat named Elysium, a name from classic Greek literature that refers to paradisiacal home of the relatives of the gods, a place of perpetual ease and happiness. There is no explanation for how this situation came about, but I think that it is logical to assume that at some point in time, Dick Chaney assumed power on Earth and implemented his vision for the economy, setting the stage for this story. And thus you have the Haves, who predictably don't want to give up having, and the Have Nots, who can't give up wanting -- Les Miserables Redux.
This is director Neill Blomkamp's second full length feature, the first being District 9, and it is difficult not to compare the two films, and so let me say up front that if you saw District 9 and liked it, there is a really good chance that you will like this film. However, beware! District 9 was a clever and intriguing story filled with biting social commentary. Elysium is...well, not. District 9 had a gritty, documentary-style feel to it. Elysium does not. District 9 had moments of dark humor. Elysium is humorless, having neither snicker nor sneer.
However, what it does have are space ships, robots and things blowing up, and has them in spades. The art direction and the effects in this film are spectacularly well done and are light-years beyond those of District 9 and make this film worth seeing. There is some decent acting in Elysium, with both Matt Damon and Jodie Foster turning in solid performances, but there just wasn't a lot of meat on the bones of these characters. It's like watching a wreck at a NASCAR race -- it may be of interest that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was driving one of the cars, but the wreck itself is not more or less spectacular as a result.
Notice that in the last paragraph I said this film is worth seeing. That's true, but here is my dilemma: although I wanted to see this movie, and although I was very impressed with this movie, and although I definitely got my monies' worth in this movie, and although I would recommend you go see this movie, it is not a movie I would ever want to see again. It is by design graphic and harsh. It purposely assaults the sensibilities. It unsettles.
I think this is a must see film, but not for everyone. It is visually stunning, although a bit thin on plot. Choose carefully. Before you go into the theater, ask yourself one question: "Did I vote for Dick Cheney?" Well, did ya ...
Fans of Matt Damon, or of sci-fi action movies will probably find Elysium to be a decent film. The CGI is sure to be a hit, too.
[At this point, Sand looks at her fingernails, has a sip of tea, plays a game of Spider Solitaire, checks the word count to see if the 27 words have somehow miraculously multiplied, and wonders how much longer she has to remember the movie.]
Did I enjoy the movie? No.
Was I glad to see the movie in the theater? No.
Will I buy the DVD of Elysium when it comes up for sale? No.
Max has grown up in the rubble and poverty of a worn-out Earth, always knowing that up in the sky is the beautiful clean air and water of Elysium, space station for the rich and privileged. When he receives a lethal dose of radiation and learns that he has only five days to live, he knows that his only hope of survival is to get to Elysium for their advanced health care. In return for a chance to get to the space station, he agrees to steal a computer program -- a security breach that guarantees the government will try to kill him on sight.
Matt Damon does what he can with the role of Max, and Jodie Foster is a deliciously heartless and conniving Head of Elysium Security. She should be playing villains all the time.
Elysium is rated R for "strong bloody violence" and I should have had a long look at IMDb's Parents' Guide before I agreed to go see it. CGI has evolved to a point that makes violent explosions all too realistic for me, especially when they involve human bodies. On more than one occasion I had to look away from the screen until gruesome scenes were over, and in fact saw some scenes that made me wish I hadn't had my eyes open at all.
Elysium is really not a bad film. It is simply not a film for me.