The Horror Honeys: Elysium: Happiness is not having to think for yourself...

Elysium: Happiness is not having to think for yourself...

A Sci-Fi Honey Review

Elysium 2013

This may seem an odd movie to review as Sci-Fi Horror, as it’s probably closer to straight Sci-Fi; but the always awesome post-apocalyptic dystopian elements drew me in. Plus, it came from the folks who brought us District 9, which was full of alien Prawns and scariness, and I’ve been excited about this movie since I heard about it.

I'm pretty sure that District 9 was made for about $10 and a stick of gum, so I was stoked to see what they could do with an actual budget and name actors, not to mention the return of Sharlto Copley. For those who don’t recall, Copley was one of the leads in District 9, playing Wikus Van De Merwe,  the fantastic nerd-like man leading the relocation of the alien ‘Prawns’ from District 9 to District 10.

Rounding out the star-power of Elysium is Matt Damon, who is as cute as a squirrel, and the always fabulous Jody Foster. Now, throw in action and explosions and effects and a great trailer and how can it go wrong??  Right???

When the credits rolled, I walked out of Elysium, and I'm pretty sure that the first words out of my mouth were (and I quote):

"What The Actual Fuck."

As background, the underlying story is that the earth went to hell, full of pollution and crime and other obvious identifiable problems.  So, the rich people built a big circular space station called Hollywo- I mean Elysium, and moved onto it.  Elysium plays out as if Wall-E went terribly wrong. Instead of squishy walrus-like people on floating Wal-Mart scooters, the space station is full of Chanel-wearing douchebags with too much botox and kids from the most uptight boarding school ever. 

The Devil Wears Space Prada

Meanwhile, the peons live on the ruined earth in squalor, without health care, on a Police-State planet covered with security droids who do random searches and generally keep the poor people down. These poor, (and mostly Hispanic for some reason) people left in L.A. keep trying to sneak onto Elysium on shuttles for emergency healthcare. The rich folks, however, have awesome healing tubes and live to like 200 years old or something on lovely manicured lawns and OH MY GOD COULD YOU BE MORE HEAVY HANDED WITH THE METAPHOR PLEASE I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU’RE TRYING TO TELL ME! 

But fear not, oppressed minorities!! Matt Damon (with a shaved head to make him look tougher) who is also apparently the only Caucasian dude left in L.A., will save everyone!!!!!  Gee thanks, "Lone White Guy With Nothing Left To Lose", for helping all the poor Hispanic people who obviously can’t help themselves, and whom it appears are mostly car-stealing criminals! My eyes rolled so hard I’m pretty sure I saw the back of my skull.

To be fair, Matt Damon actually isn’t bad in this role, acting-wise.  Playing reformed car thief Max, an ex-con trying to walk the straight and narrow in the bad part of what’s left of L.A.. Matt Damon’s underlying nice guy-ness combined with the tattoos and shaved head make him believable as a basically nice guy who grew up in bad circumstances – shown through flashbacks of him in an orphanage run by nuns (of course), a smart kid with potential who didn’t have a chance due to his station in life – and make plausible his ability to both kick ass and also sacrifice for the greater good.  After an industrial accident (caused by an employer who doesn’t care about employee safety and fires people callously when they don’t need them anymore and oh look another social commentary metaphor, spell it out more obviously please, I don’t think I got it.) leaves him in dire straits, Max needs to get to Elysium and hit a healing pod stat, or he’s toast. Hilarity ensues.
Great job with the Poor Person, Asian Medical-Tech Person Who Works Here Because Asians Are Smart, But Can't Live Here Because You Aren't White! -- CARRY ON!

Jody Foster is Delacourt, the Secretary of Defense on Elysium. Her job is to wear an immaculate business suit (nicely done) and keep the riff-raff off Elysium by whatever means is necessary. The people running Elysium tut-tut disapprovingly at her methods, but really, they haven’t fired her yet, so they must be accepting of her underhanded ruthless tactics LIKE IN AMERICA.  Sigh.  Anyway, at first I thought her acting sucked, but after I thought about it, I've come to terms with the fact that it was all kind of a George Lucas scenario – just because he writes it, doesn’t mean people can act it. 

Sadly, in the end that's why I didn’t really like this movie. The effects? Incredible. The cinematography? Spectacular. The sound? Superb. The writing? Fucking terrible. The dialogue was mediocre at best. The plot had holes in it that you could drive a giant well-manicured space station through, and was really predictable. The characters were verging on caricature at times. Sharlto Copley was unrecognizable (in a good way) as "The Big Bad Guy" named Kruger, and he started out a really menacing mercenary working for Delacourt, but devolved for no real reason into an over-the-top screaming hand-waving crazy dude with pervy tendencies that didn’t seem to fit the character he started the movie as. 
Screaming, hand-waving, crazy, pervy dude?
 Coming right up!

Elysium also features the standard "Love Interest" for Max, and the "Cute Little Kid" who melts his hard heart, and the "Bad Guy Who Is a Good Guy Underneath And Helps Save The Day", and pretty much every other trope a movie can have, including the Spielberg-ian ending that made me throw up in my mouth a little. Because ACTION. 

Oooo guns.  

Elysium could have been really cool if the writer (Neill Blomkamp) had actually let the viewer determine meaning, instead of laying out “This movie is about the 1% vs the 99% and healthcare and immigration issues in the US today!”, like the viewer is incapable of comprehending subtext. District 9, which Blomkamp co-wrote, dealt with social segregation/class issues in a much less obvious way than Elysium does. In the end, Elysium looks and sounds great, but effects can’t make up for such incredibly dismal writing. I was expecting dark and bleak and I got Palm Springs and William Shatner. 

Guest Sci-Fi Honey Rating: 2 Tribbles out of 5.