Monday, August 12, 2013

Elysium ~ Somewhere Over The Wheel In The Sky

Elysium ~ Poster 001 | A Constantly Racing Mind
W atching the trailers and hearing the promotional hype for Neil Blomkamp’s new film, "Elysium," you might get the idea that this movie is going to set the social-political world on fire.  "Elysium" is many things but not that.  The more the world changes the more people stay the same.  It doesn't matter if it is ten years in the future, or one-hundred and fifty, people's mentality doesn't change that easily.  What Neil Blomkamp tries in “Elysium” is to unify the character, the plot, with the CGI, to a point where the audience forgets that they are watching a film, and become fully immersed in a Sci-Fi world.  Matt Damon ("The Bourne Identity," "The Adjustment Bureau"), Jodi Foster ("Contact," "Panic Room") and Alice Braga ("Predators," "I am Legend")  star in this film about a futuristic Robin Hood taking on the aristocracy. “Elysium” runs about an hour and forty-nine minutes and is R for the violence.

The setup is simple, the year is 2154, and the world is polluted, overcrowded, and just extremely third worldish.  The aristocracy has built themselves a world, just out of reach of Earth's downtrodden, but just close enough to be either, a hope, or a tease.  The giant torus, a circular wheel like space station where the rich call Elysium orbits in a geosynchronous orbit over Los Angeles.  The Ancient Greeks believed that Elysium is where the righteous and the heroic go to a happy afterlife.  To a young orphan boy and a girl, it is a goal that they set their sights on while still innocent.  The world of the future is where robots tend to our every need.  That is, of course, that you are part of the social elite with the money and pedigree. 

Max De Acosta (Damon) lives in a world with little hope.  Los Angeles of the future is nothing more than a giant favela.  Max's world is a place where knowledge is power, and it can be uploaded or downloaded from a computer, into, or out of our brains.  He works in a factory where profit is job one, and safety be damned.  Max who is more of an anti-hero, an ex-con, an orphan, and he is a product of his environment.  A former car thief now on probation, Max is working at a factory that makes security robots.  The factory is owned by corporcrat and CEO, John Carlyle, and top citizen of Elysium, who stands aloof above the workers in his factory.He dismisses the board of directors with a swipe of a finger and demands from his underlings more work and more profits.  While on the floor below Max is doused with a lethal dose of radiation and now has a true motivation to seek the medical attention that only citizens of Elysium can afford.


Elysium ~ Matt Damon 001 | A Constantly Racing Mind


Like the world we live in today, there are the coyotes, the immigrant traffickers, who for a price, will give you a new identity, genetically bonded to your DNA, and a ride to Elysium.  The ride might be short lived, as we see to what extent Jodi Foster's character, Secretary of Homeland Defense, Jessica Delacourt will go to keep out the unwanted.  The part of Delacourt was written for a man; however, Foster plays the part with much malice, and cunning, that makes the audience want more of her, yet want her dead all the same.  After ordering the murder of 42 illegals, she justifies her position to the President, (Faran Tahir) that she will do whatever is necessary to protect what they have created for themselves and their offspring.  She speaks with an accent that is not recognizable, yet in some ways reminds me of the former South African Apartheid leaders, although not quite.  She represents a government who stands against the unwashed masses. 

What is shown early in the film, during the illegals scenes is a mother and daughter who do escape death.  They run for the nearest house (think mansion) and breaks in (how dare she!) and places her ill daughter on a medical table.  This device seems to be as common as a stove or refrigerator in every house.  After a few scans; one to determine citizenship, another to diagnose the illness, and with the final scan the machine eradicates the sickness from the little girl’s body.  The mother and daughter are apprehended by the robot security force, the unthinking machines that enforce homeland security, and they are deported back to Earth.  This scene sets precedence for future scenes in the film.  It tells us that what the people on Earth want is not a purely social revolution, but just some sense of equality as people.


Elysium ~ Los Angeles 001 | A Constantly Racing Mind


Where there are politicians with big smiles and seemingly clean hands, there are those who lurk in the shadows.  Kruger is such a character, a henchmen who operates from the slums of Earth, "District 9's" Sharlto Copley plays Kruger as a one-dimensional shark-like character, whom, in acts one and two is a perpetual hunter focused on his prey.  His South African accent is incomprehensible most of the time, but his intent is clear.  In act three, the Kruger’s character changes both physically, and mentally.  Not that this is a character that grows, but in some way devolves into less than character that takes over as the main antagonist, replacing Delacourt, but without the charm and disdain.

Alice Braga plays strange characters in her films.  She is not quite the love interest, well certainly not a lover, and sometimes she has a child with her, one that is not necessarily her own.  Sometimes she totes a gun, and sometimes she is just along for the ride.  In “Elysium,” she is Max's childhood friend, who unlike Max, left the city, became a doctor, and had a child.  The father is nowhere in the story, however, her daughter Matilda (Emma Tremblay) is dying of Leukemia.  In many ways, this puts Frey in the very same position as Delacourt.  Frey would do anything for her child.

Elysium ~ Alice Braga 001 | A Constantly Racing Mind


Throughout the film Ryan Amon's score seems to borrow heavily from Inception and the deep bass sounds of impending doom, to J.S. Bach concertos, and all the way to the industrial sounds of Lorn, PRDCTV, Audio Android, and the like of Arkasia to name a few.  The music sets the mood and increases the tension, however, in some cases, especially when Kruger is speaking distracts even more his lines. The question "what did he say" could be heard in whispers throughout the theater.

As a Science Fiction film goes, there are many nice Science Fiction elements to see.  The space environment is breathtaking, and unfortunately, we don’t explore much of it.  We see many of the mansions and some parties but not much of the city life on Elysium.  There are vertical take-off and landing vehicles that I think today's military will drool over, if they are not already working on prototypes of the craft that Kruger uses.  There are communication devices that have digital displays on your wrists (the texting section of a cell phone on your wrist maybe?).  One element of Sci-Fi tropes is the dehumanizing of man.  This takes form of an exoskeleton, that Max is forced to where in order to equalize the battle against the machines.  The suit is an attempt to make Max less man and more like a machine as in "Star Wars" Darth Vader became more machine than a man.  Max fights against this with all his might, as near the end of the film, he sees a part of his body not covered in mechanics, a symbol that Frey tattooed on his hand as children.

Neill Blomkamp and Max Damon keep the story human.  In scenes where robots deal with everyday police work, keeping the peace, enforcing immigration rules, and in general just keeping the humans in line.  This is another concept that goes back to George Lucas’s “THX1138” and perhaps further.  Damon’s Max tries to keep things lighthearted.  When in line to get the bus to work, he is questioned by the robots he tries to joke with them, but that backfires and ends up with a broken arm for his troubles.  He is sent to probation where the probation officer is a bureaucratic robot.  When he is told for the incident at the bus, his probation is extended, the robot detects Max’s blood pressure rise and offers him a pill.  Max replies in an “Mr.Roboto” voice.  In the world of Elysium, technology and information rules, and those who have it write the rules, and that is the underlying theme of the film.


Elysium ~ Banner 001 | A Constantly Racing Mind


Max, for all his sins, cannot enter Elysium, however, he can open the door for the weak, and abused, like Captain Miller in "Saving Private Ryan," Max just wants piece.  Although there are some elements of the social and political class struggle in this story, I found "Elysium" to be a film about the hopes and dreams of all humanity.  To live in a world where social classes are not so far apart, and humankind, need not be so desperate for basic needs.  "Elysium" is an enjoyable mix between action, environment, and story.


Related 

Elysium ~ How To Ask A Girl Out On A Date In The Future
Elysium ~ Heist Trailer
Elysium ~ Two New Featurettes | Special Ops - The Tech of Elysium
Elysium ~ Two New TV Spots | Flight - Promises
Elysium ~ Featurette -01
Elysium ~ A Tale of Two Worlds
Elysium ~ Extended Trailer
Elysium
Elysium Poster
Elysium Trailer 2013

Movie Data

Genre:  Sci-Fi, Thriller
Year:  2013
Staring: Jodie Foster, Matt Damon, Sharlto Copley, William Fichtner, Alice Braga
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Producer(s): Bill Block, Simon Kinberg
Writer: Neill Blomkamp
Rating: R
Running Time: 109 minutes
Release Date: 8/9/2013