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IN SHORT: shoulda coulda been better. [Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout. 120 minutes]
We never should notice the editing in any film we watch. Early on in Elysium, we felt as if we were getting punched by the film. In other words, a film shouldn't be calling attention to itself, which is how we felt about the early minutes of Elysium. That gets in the way of what also struck us as probably a real good idea for a SF tinged movie; good enough that there was half a smattering of applause at film's end.
Elysium is a story of NIMBY gone nuts. NIMBY means "Not In My Back Yard" or, in this movie, the bestest place to live is on the luxurious station in space, where security chief Delacourt (Jodie Foster) ensures that the space station's grass remains much greener than on planet Earth, which has been so trashed by the human race that there isn't much grass left at all.
Earth 2154. Los Angeles is now, essentially, Mexico. Mobs run riot. Spanish seems to be the primary language. The principal form of employment seems to be waiting on lines -- those who have actual, productive jobs are looked upon with disdain. As much as Earth is a pit; those doomed to spend their days on it can look up to the sky, where the pristine, white, circular space station hangs, glittering in space.
This is Elysium, where the rich people live. White, French speaking with a scattering of minority faces to show fairness; the security of the station is over seen by Delacourt (Jodie Foster) whose take no prisoners attitude towards illegal space shuttles trying to sneak undesireables on to "her" station is starting to irk PC wimp President Patel (Faran Tahir), currently in charge of Elysium's ruling body.
Foster's view: there are ways to earn a ticket to life everlasting on Elysium. Granted, it's pretty much impossible to do so but allowing "undesireables" to break the law and then let them stay (implied but not stated in the clunky opening moments) is unacceptable. Shuttles trying to sneak into Elysium airspace are blown to kingdom come. And if the government doesn't like her attitude, well, the government could be changed . . . we'll come back to that.
One Earth-stuck grunt needing access to Elysium is Max (Matt Damon). Max works in a radiation factory, building robots. An accidental exposure leaves him with five days to live on Earth . . . of course, if he lived on Elysium, where each home has its own "med-bay" which can cure every disease known to man. Also, because it is necessary to standard story construction; tugging at our heartstrings is a childhood friend of Max' called Frey (Alice Braga). Frey's daughter Matilda (Emma Tremblay) is in end stage leukemia and, well, that too can be solved if only she can get to Elysium.
And, of course there's a revolutionary movement that want to make Elysium medical tech available to the grunts on earth. How could there not be (and if that means a wee bit of "you've had your turn in the sky, now it's our turn and you can slog it out on Earth" so much the better)?
So Max cuts a deal with those revolutionaries. They wire him up as some kind of android and blast him into space . . . Here we begin to phase out of the story, a complicated mess involving hijacking the contents of an industrialist's brain (William Fichtner), a brain that also holds the key to a coup d'etat plan to overthrow that wimp running the Elysium station-- reread the above and figure it out yourself -- and here, just about everything that begins the usual nonstop explosions thing, begins.
Any combination of just a couple of those possibilities and you could build a terrific SF based story. The combinations chosen, the writing is just feh. What might have been terrific is just adequate.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Elysium, he would have paid . . .
Great production design is just not enough.
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