Tuesday, August 27, 2013

'Elysium' (film)

Elysium: a Culture Orbital clone

Plot summary from Rotten Tomatoes.
In the year 2154, two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth. The people of Earth are desperate to escape the planet's crime and poverty, and they critically need the state-of-the-art medical care available on Elysium - but some in Elysium will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve their citizens' luxurious lifestyle. The only man with the chance bring equality to these worlds is Max (Matt Damon), an ordinary guy in desperate need to get to Elysium. With his life hanging in the balance, he reluctantly takes on a dangerous mission - one that pits him against Elysium's Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her hard-line forces - but if he succeeds, he could save not only his own life, but millions of people on Earth as well.
I recommended this to my wife and two sons and they won't let me forget it. Clare claimed the movie put her into a 109 minute light trance; Adrian claimed a 'micronap' then 'amusement'; Alex just told me it was rubbish and 'this was why he didn't go to the cinema.'

And me? I like to look at films forensically.

1. Is it engaging? Not really - the viewer is not exactly bored, but there is detachment as the film unrolls, a sense of time passing, you check your watch.

2. Does it suspend disbelief?  Not a chance: plot holes scream out as you repeatedly recite to yourself, 'that would never happen', 'they would never do it that way'.

3. Are the characters interesting or even convincing? No, they're stereotypes: evil corporate executive, evil politician, corrupt politician, warm and engaging Hispanic car thief, violent and impulsive Hispanic gang leader with MSc computer skills and a heart of gold, ...  Matt Damon.

The politics of bad-rich-people and wonderful-but-oppressed third world people is so infantile that it's hard to believe that extreme Democrats (Damon) and the film's South African director actually appear to believe it. One plot point revolves around the small, winsome child (naturally dying tragically of leukaemia) telling an uplifting fairy tale to the hero to inspire him to help her and the trodden-down masses. This childish story was an apt metaphor for the entire film.

I can find one good thing to say about Elysium: the CGI of the space habitat itself shows it to be a realisation of an Iain M. Banks' Culture Orbital (although too small to actually retain atmosphere or deal with the cosmic radiation ... to be geeky for a moment).