The year is 2154. The world has been crippled by mass poverty and pollution, disease is running rampant and you still haven’t finished that screenplay you’ve been working on at Starbucks. Mankind has pretty much been split into two classes. Most of the population lives on decaying Earth—a society that has an aesthetic comparable to waiting in line at a DMV in East Los Angeles. It’s pretty much what a lot of radical conservatives imagined the United States would become if Obama was re-elected: everyone is a minority (with the exception for Matt Damon), jobs are hard to come by and people are dressed like they’re from a Mad Max Movie.
On the other end of the spectrum are the wealthy few that have found asylum on an enormous space habitat called Elysium. The word refers to the “Elysium” or the“Elysian Plain” of Greek myth—a place situated on the edge of the world where the few heroes selected by the gods would spend their afterlife free of hardship and toil. In the film, it is the neo-Stepford Wives community where future Mitt Romney types can host garden parties and eat designer cupcakes in peace. They also have a bunch of tanning bed looking machines that can heal any injury or sickness.
The whole film gets preachy when the “illegals” from earth (who are mostly Hispanic) pack into their spaceships and try to cross into Elysium territory (inhabited by mostly white people) with the hopes of starting a better life. Their efforts are quickly stifled when Defense Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) activates sleeper cell/redneck boarder control agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley) and his South African accent to blow the illegals to space hell with a rocket launcher. From then on, the rest of the movie involves Matt Damon trying to infiltrate Elysium in order to get life saving medical treatment for himself and his loved ones.
While I agree with the message, I felt that the execution was a little bludgeoning. Where Neill Blomkamp’s previous film, District 9, was a nuanced statement about the post-apartheid racial tensions in South Africa, Elysium is about as subtle as “Put It In Your Mouth”.
I felt like I was in the middle of an exposition gangbang when all I really wanted was a film that would whisper sweet nothings into my ear and make tender love to me.
Oh and hey, remember that three-paragraph description of the set up I gave at the start of this article? Well yeah, there’s a bunch fucking more that I didn’t even mention. I think that’s part of the problem with this movie. So, the world is divided by class...and Matt Damon is an orphan...and he made a promise to his sister...and he has radiation poisoning...and his niece has leukemia...and he’s an ex-convict...and he’s surgically given robotic arm enhancements for some reason...and he just happens to have world-shattering data uploaded into the computer chip in his dome piece coincidentally. I felt like I was in the middle of an exposition gangbang when all I really wanted was a film that would whisper sweet nothings into my ear and make tender love to me.
Elysium is also filled with a number of dystopian sci-fi clichés like oppression via robots, the evil corporation that is evil for no apparent reason and the vaguely lesbian antagonist who has a British accent and wears a pantsuit. It even had the “locket from the start of the film that has a more profound meaning for the main character at the climax” shtick. Any film that uses that device is an instant boner-kill as far as I am concerned. At least Malcolm McDowell wasn’t the bad guy.
As I mentioned before, there’s this character named Kruger who just goes around killing everybody. This fucking guy looks like he’s from a Brawny commercial and sounds like the dude from Die Antwoord. Basically, the entire package. He pretty much made the movie—the sole redeeming factor that kept it from sinking to Alien: Resurrection levels.
But let’s talk about my man Matt Damon for a second. I feel like he always tries to play characters that embody what he wants to be and what he stands for. For example, Elysium and Invictus tell us that he wants to fix racism, Rounders is a nod to his love of poker and The Departed is about how he wants to be Mark Wahlberg. Most of the time, I love Matt Damon, but every once in a while he becomes too smug for his own fucking good. I suppose that’s just what comes with being an A-lister. It’s times like these that make me want to hold him in my hairy, Robin Williams arms and tell him, “It’s not your fault, son.”
Four Pins Rating: 5.5/10 Ben Afflecks
Matt Rimer is a writer living in Boston. Follow him on Twitter here.