ELYSIUM [Face-Off Review]: ‘Bourne’ on the Fifth of LA…

Nicole “Naughty Angel” Brunner: So, I’m guessing this is the first time GodHatesGeeks has ever done a review via text message?

“Monsignor” Travis Moody: Yeah, we’re setting trends; what can we say! (And going to fix lots of spellcheck…) Let’s give our faithful the lowdown on the film we’re going to review, shall we?

Brunner: Sure. Elysium is Neil Blomkamp’s much anticipated follow-up to District 9, this time starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. The film also continues to address social injustice through the guise of a sci-fi action extravaganza, as a clear — and not to distant — future extremist look at classism and border wars, but taken literally to another level in a hyper-idealized space station called, you guessed it, Elysium. The uber-elite (or one percenters) are the only ones allowed to have citizenship on Elysium away from the overpopulated masses below on earth, where the people have no access to near perfect healthcare systems above their heads. The movie does provide some sexy, full-on, rip your face off action sequences. Unfortunately, those fantastic moments don’t make up for lack of meat left on the bone, politically or intellectually throughout the story. Elysium is a good example of a lot films today that fail to provide a tight enough script to match the dazzling visuals.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQX7uTiV5L0

Moody: Holy Crap, Batwoman Ebert! Who needs a “Face-Off” discussion when you summed up — and practically reviewed — Elysium to a tee. My biggest problem with the flick is how much critics disliked the next-level beauty and imagination of “that other political sci-fi film,” Oblivion (which we reviewed here), and then had the haystacks to revere this entertaining, albeit merely adequate actioneer. Meh.

Brunner: Critics and most people today seem to have a distinct aversion to anything Tom Cruise-related. But, yes, that is a good point because Oblivion was a stronger film. Watching Elysium left me kinda longing for District 9 and anyone who hasn’t seen that movie really should, including you, Moody! Also, I have to agree with my contemporaries on Jodie Foster’s performance, ugh, that accent was as repellent as her character. The dialogue was really contrived and super blasé for the most part too. Matt Damon gives his usual more than adequate performance as he is the white Denzel Washington. It’s as if Jason Bourne went to District 9…haha.

But, I never ran out of ammo in Borderlands 2…

Moody: Lol…basically, you know what you’re getting with Mr. Goodwill Hunting half the time, which isn’t entirely a bad thing. His protagonist in Elysium is actually bad-ass in the RoboCop human-mech sense, and there are a number of allegories surrounding his stature (i.e. the metaskeleton resembling a cross, etc.) And, uh-huh, its a low down dirty shame that Cruise doesnt get the respect he deserves for all the hard work and authenticity he puts into his roles, but, then again, he dug himself a pretty deep couch cushion. You dont think Blonkamp did himself justice here?

Brunner: No, absolutely not. Neill Blonkamp is super talented but very ‘new’ and judging from his failed attempt at adapting Halo into a film for Universal, he’s likely to have some hits and misses along his career. I really did enjoy the massively intricate exoskeletal/hydrolic armament worn but Matt Damon and more over, the one worn by Sharlto Copley, the lead from District 9. He ravages in this movie as a super scary mercenary, even overshadowing Damon a bit!

Moody: Certainly! Now Copley is going to be that next “it” guy for Marvel/Warner for their super villains list, especially now that Vin Deisel is all but GROOT. Can’t think of too many from down under tho. Although his Kruger certainly did remind me of former UFC Heavyweight Champ Andrei Arlovski — without the heavyweight part of course. And, about Jodie Foster, we love her…but what’s up with her playing the COTY?!!?! I’m sure you can guess what the first initial in that stands for…

In case Ray Donovan doesn’t want to come back as Sabretooth…

Brunner: *Spoiler!* Actually Copley is South African, like the director. Although they do sound very much like Aussies or kiwis. In Elysium, he’s far so different than his Wikus from District 9, actually placing himself in a much more marketable class with this role. Obviously, the director likes him a lot too. My favorite part of the movie is when Kruger gets his face blown off and re-animated…

Moody: That.. was cool. Elysium def had its own special touches like that freaky sequence, especially when it came to depicting a very post apocalyptic Mad Maxian LA. I thought Matty D was gonna end up the Road Warrior there for a while. It just saddened me that Blomkamp made it so obvious that he was referring to the overpopulation in SoCal and the demonstrative differences between its races and classes. Seeing how we watched the film in Anaheim, I was a tad uncomfortable as I left the theater with…the general population of the area. I get the 99/1% agenda he had, but there could have been a more subtle, indirectly creative way to get his point across. And, yet another movie where Damon becomes “Jesus” for the other race; though, I will give him credit for making two strong(er) characters in the nurse/childhood friend/love interest (Alice Braga) and computer tech smuggler/internet gangbanger (No, not Ray Getsbusy, but Wagner Moura), who offered some great acting chops,  but overall just not that funny. At least Oblivion — and hell, Man of Steel — packed a lot more soul, charm, and, yes, humor.

Brunner: Agreed. Max is very, well, Mad Max-meets-Mexico, which is where they shot the Los Angeles backdrop anyway (in addition to some sections in Vancouver). Kinda makes sense, considering the current border wars and all. Also, the exoskeletal effects mirror the technology that is now being researched for military applications. All very relevant material, sure; it just doesn’t complete the thought enough. Kinda like Obama’s healthcare reform…

And that’s for calling me BANE!

Moody: Boom! Shots from the cannon! Other than the obvious Philip K. Dick stuff, influences I caught were Blade Runner (the rainy, dismissed concrete setting), A Clockwork Orange (the mannequin mannerisms), D.O.A. (the sociopolitical thrill), and anything Darren Aronovsky (the quick-cut editing). The fight scenes were the best thing of the movie for that very reason, which is why I thought the Black Swan director would have killed on The Wolverine (thankfully, Mangold manned up enough). In addition to the confrontational excitement, snappy dread, and brilliant viciousness, Elysium‘s array of Borderlandsesque guns were among the very best I’ve witnessed and — especially — heard. As an audience, it felt like we were able to customize them ourself! Boom! (Again..)

Brunner: I still need to play that game! I know…sue me, will ya? I just don’t think Borderlands 2 will be #fullretard enough for me with The Motherf*$%^#&# President arriving in stores this week! Back to the matter at hand, though… Like NOT SEEING the damn trailer for the new RoboCop movie! For some reason our theater did not show the other dystopian future flick in their previews. Total bust, fucking Anaheim! What’s really missing from Elysium is Elysium; the actual place is practically a still painting hanging in the sky throughout the film. Kinda like an aerial shot from “The Real Housewives of Orange County”. I guess the director thought a perfect society would be too boring to explore, but there’s no doubt it would’ve given the story some much needed depth. Maybe there’s a lot more wrong up there than just Jodie Foster’s jacked-up Elysium accent. The political power players could’ve carried more weight too. Thankfully, the guns had a “sonic boom!” quality that was worth it, for sure.

Moody: Not to belt any more of this political agenda stuff over the head.. like Blomkamp did to us, but maybe not showing much discovery within this sateplanet was olso Blomkamp’s political agenda; that often the life we want could also become the life that is the most unfulfillingly hollow. As much as I try, it’s hard for me to label Elysium anything further than standard sci-fi fare. There was certainly a lot of press on the fact this director doesn’t want to do “Hollywood” movies. But, with Elysium, and some of the one-note villains and characters, that’s basically what he does. Sure, the movie has a fairly smart lead actor and smart set design metallica. But, is this really any more brilliant than Pacific Rim? NO. Del Toro wipes the map with this flick in terms of its overall brilliance…yet reviews said it was yet another dumb popcorn flick. Maybe we should have had some popcorn with this one?

Blomkamp couldn’t make Halo, so went ahead and made.. Halo. With humans.

Brunner: Oh, so NOW you’re offering! Typical Moody. Speaking of Pac Rim, or, hell yes, even Man of Steel, those films far outdid Elys with its humor and there were at least a few moments of chuckle in both Snyder and del Toro’s flicks of comparison. I know Henry Cavill offered a lot more charm with Clark Kent than Damon did with Max — and it’s hard to argue that Max had any rougher upbringing than Clark. Yes, one is a gifted alien was raised out in peace by a pair of pretty terrific midwest bumpkins; the other guy basically grew up an orphan in a very Max Payne-ful Rio. Yet, who had the honor of witnessing more tragedy? Maybe we should have just have Kruger and General Zod duke it out…

Moody: Ha! Loving all of the Max references, Naughty! Why oh why must everything reflect back to Man of Steel? Because it was the best damn movie of the year, that’s why! Seemingly every podcast or Face-Off our blogazine has had has referenced the Man of Tomorrow. Hopefully, “Mad” Max and his pals aren’t truly the Men of Tomorrow, or else this will truly be an ugly world. Maybe Blomkamp is on to something here with all of that. I just wish Copley’s sleeper agent had a little bit more to work with. It just seems that a lot of the cast had to outwork their own dialogue, as you mentioned. Maybe Dennis Leary and Peter Weller could have helped with funnying-up Kruger’s lines– because the man was a beast!

Brunner: Indeed, Moody. He took over the film, even in all its uproarious banter! Let’s put a cap to this, eh? Elysium gets 2.75 Bibles from the Naughty Angel. It was good; I enjoyed it; but I’m with you with all of Blomkamp’s politics being shoved down our throats, and the film not going above and beyond the call of duty. I’m spent.

Moody: 2.75? Kinda liked the 3.75 you wanted to give RoboCop: The Last Stand #1? LOL.. You making up Bible scores now? Not sure if you remember, but when we left the theater you asked me what I thought of Elysium and my answer was “It was OK.” So, there you have it. 2.5 equals OK. I’d Redbox it, or pay the $6 for a matinee, but there were far better options this summer. Maybe even 2 Guns, with the aforementioned Denzel Washington and another Boston Boy, which we probably should’ve went to see instead…

Brunner: Boom!

2.5 (out of 5) Bibles.

 

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