Synopsis: Set in 2154, humanity has split into two sections, the one per cent, who live on an Eden called Elysium that hovers high above Earth, and the 99 per cent who toil on what’s left of our planet. The one per cent have it all plus medical care that can cure any ailment. On earth Max (Matt Damon) is an ex-thief who has always dreamed of living in Elysium and is now working a straight job to save enough to buy a ticket. When he’s exposed to a lethal dose of radiation he makes a deal with a crime boss (Wagner Moura) who hires him to do a job for a one-way ticket to Elysium. Metro’s Liz Brown sits in for Mark Breslin.
• Richard: 3/5
• Liz: 3/5
Richard: Liz, director Neill Blomkamp’s big screen debut, District 9, was a fresh slice of sci-fi with a real beating heart. He brings that same kind of humanity to Elysium, but it doesn’t feel quite as fresh this time around. It’s exciting, has some great action and ideas and everybody’s boyfriend Matt Damon, but for all that, it feels much more standard than I hoped it would be. What did you think?
Liz: Richard, Elysium isn’t as fresh because it’s District 9 with prettier faces. There’s an unfair class system, a guy who undergoes a grotesque transformation and the same dusty shanty towns. I even thought Blomkamp recycled footage from District 9 -— the Los Angeles of 2154 looks oddly like the Prawn camp outside Johannesburg. But a shredded Matt Damon is a nice addition to the somewhat tired story.
RC: I should make it clear that I liked most of this movie. I think the setup is interesting, even if it is reminiscent of everything from Oblivion and even WALL-E, and for the first hour it does what great sci-fi should do, comment on the human condition. But then it becomes an ordinary bash-’em and beat-’em action movie with sentimental and mawkish overtones. It’s not bad, and, in fact, at times is pretty great, just not as great as I expected.
LB: While the story was meh, for me, the bash-’em-up scenes were great. Watching Matt Damon and a deranged Sharlto Copley tangle in some mortal combat was a lot of fun. I thought Copley — who was the wimpy Wikus in District 9 — really stole the show in his role as a rogue secret service agent.
RC: Copley is entertaining, chewing through the scenery like he hasn’t eaten in a week. Damon also impresses. He’s believable as both the sensitive guy with a dream and the lethal, half-cyborg warrior capable of opening a can of futuristic whoop ass on everyone in his way. Jodie Foster is nicely cast as the ice cold Donald-Rumsfeld-style villain, but I found her perfect diction really distracting. Every word she says seemed to have its own finely honed shape to the point where I almost had a hard time understanding what she was saying.
LB: Foster wasn’t the only one with distracting diction. I found the fast-talk in this film impossible to understand. I’m still not sure of the finer points of the Earthling plan to invade Elysium and maybe Matt Damon missed them too, judging from the way things go terribly wrong. He really got a raw deal didn’t he? Only Damon could take on a lethal radiation dose, sketchy Tijuana-style surgery and a few beatings and still save the day.
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