Let's assume Matt Damon doesn't need a paycheck. Then why on Earth would he agree to star in this mind-numbing excuse for a movie? He had to have read the script --- such as it is. Perhaps it was the opportunity to work with Jodie Foster, though they have no scenes together. It's simply a mystery as to why he would tarnish his career with this HUGE blemish.
The year is 2154 and Planet Earth is a hell-hole. (We've been seeing a lot of this lately, so I guess we're doomed --- but I digress.) Less than one percent of the world's population, the uber-wealthy, exists on a man-made space station named Elysium. Everything is beautiful there, and no one gets sick or dies because there are pods in all homes which cure diseases and every manner of possible death.
Which brings up the curious question as to why some inhabitants of Elysium are older? If they can cure all diseases, couldn't they also keep everyone youthful looking? Max (Damon) has promised his childhood sweetheart, Frey (Alice Braga), that some day he will take her to Elysium. But he's just a common thug with a record of petty theft and violence.
It isn't until after a work-related accident that Max finally gets his chance to get to Elysium. His best buddy, Julio (Diego Luna) and he decide to pull a caper for a human smuggler named Spider (Wagner Moura). Everything goes wrong and Max ends up in the hands of Kruger (Sharlto Copley), a rogue operative controlled by Secretary Delacourt (Foster), who has big plans for her career on the space station.
Written and directed by Neill Blomkamp (of "District 9", another film which was highly overrated), "Elysium" is an utter mess and total disappointment. We have come to expect better from Damon. Perhaps he wanted to show the world that he, too, could look buff at age forty-two. And he does, which is about the only good thing in "Elysium".
The premise, though somewhat interesting, is never really developed. We are told nothing about the beginning of Elysium, or how long it's been in existence. So, why now, after presumably some expanse of time, is Spider able to sneak one ship through Elysium's defense system, which is highly suspect, without being shot down?
And why exactly is Secretary Delacourt powerful enough to make the decision to shoot down unauthorized ships and kill innocent people? Yes, she is reprimanded by President Patel (Faran Tahir), but not removed from power. She is therefore free to conspire with Kruger, whom no one watching this movie can understand.
I must stop myself here. There is no sense in going on. "Elysium" is simply one of the worst films of the year, with derelict dialogue (remember, this is 2154 and they're still saying "Whadup?"), and a sound track that is like nails on a chalkboard. I especially "love" when the music cues the serious/sad/dangerous moments of "Elysium". Geez --- give the audience some credit.
And don't even get me started on Jodie Foster. I have never been a fan, but here she is downright awful. She overacts in every scene with a stern look plastered to her face. It's a brutal performance. And I'm not quite sure what accent she was attempting, but there were a few sequences when she forgot to use it.
I could go on and on with an entire laundry list of all the things wrong with this movie, like the bad guys still talking people to death before they shoot them, but I shall not. Unless you're a teenaged boy, I would stay as far away from "Elysium" as possible --- even the 19 minute trip from Earth to the space station isn't far enough.
Opinion: Strong Don't Bother!
When the best parts of a science fiction film are its set designs, that's not a good thing. Despite awesome set creations depicting wide spread devastation of Los Angeles, and a uniquely-depicted space station ring to which uber-wealthy people have migrated, "Elysium", as an adventure, falls flat. Matt Damon as the protagonist can't save this film, nor does Jodie Foster have much of an impact as Delacourt, the heartless social bigwig in space.
The movie is a cynical look at the future, set in 2154. Oddly, we are told early on that the setting is late in the 21st century, which would make the year 2099 or earlier, so the filmmakers should have brushed up on their Gregorian calendar. That aside, the premise by writer/director Neill Blomkamp is a good one: one sector of society, the presumed one-percenters, have managed to escape the drab, hopeless conditions of an Earth of 141 years from now simply by being rich, while the remaining population is mired in a world controlled by malevolent robots and unfeeling humans.
The majority still on earth are plagued by sickness and other maladies, but the people in space have no worries along those lines because anything that smacks of disease or imperfection is repaired or cured within minutes, thanks to advanced technology available only on the space station. So when Max (Damon) is exposed to radiation that will kill him in five days, he must find a way to reach the space ring and be healed.
I didn't have a problem with the simplicity of the plot, or the lack of explanation as to how the wealthy managed to get to the space ring. I had a problem with the blandness of the whole affair. After a decent beginning depicting Max as a blue collar guy on his way to work every day, the movie devolves into an endless series of battle scenes, primarily between Max as a sort of six million dollar man vs. the film's chief villain, Kruger (Sharlto Copley). Copley severely overacts, and what's worse, we never have the sense that Max is in any real danger.
Early scenes show a young Max and a young girl, Frey (Alice Braga plays the adult Frey) swearing eternal devotion to each other, and we are constantly reminded of their mutual vow through frequent flashbacks. Really? Blomkamp must think movie audiences are total morons --- no need to hit us over the head with this, again and again.
Despite an exciting original score by Ryan Amon, and excellent cinematography by Trent Opaloch, "Elysium" quickly becomes mundane and boring. I would have liked a more in-depth look at life on the space station, and how the privileged few interact with each other, amidst their disdain for the poverty-stricken populace back on Earth.
Damon was great as Jason Bourne, but this material is so sub-par he doesn't stand a chance of being a true hero. As for Foster --- and, yes, we are well aware that Jeanne does not care for her as an actress --- her turn as Delacourt is strictly one-dimensional, certainly not on a level with her previous work.
Opinion: Don't Bother!