Elysium

The Rich Writing Stories About the Poor Always Being With Us Will Always Be With Us


Elysium is effective. Doesn't seem like an insult? You'll see what I mean when you wind up in Guantanamo Bay.
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Reported on 3rd of October, 2013

Let us be brief. Elysium is terrible. One was hoping for at the very least some fun future-osity, in the way of Oblvion, instead being hammered with action sequences that were a combination of Mr. Michael Bay and Mr. Gary Ross on top of a paint shaker. Here my representation:

In this case, my lack of artistic ability is a communicative boon.

In this case, my lack of artistic ability is a communicative boon.

I think what makes me angry, no surprise, are the occasional critical references to the, well, to call them vastly superior kind of undersells the comparison, so let’s call Wall•E and Idiocracy films, and Elysium effective. Doesn’t seem like an insult? You’ll see what I mean when you wind up in Guantanamo Bay. Hey, it just came out. It’s not covered by the Geneva convention.

That's right. IMAX. It was an upconvert, terrible, and cost £16 for a matinee. But there were five minutes less of trailers. You gotta use money for something.

That’s right. IMAX. It was an upconvert, terrible, and cost £18 for a matinee. But there were five minutes less of trailers. You gotta use money for something.

The large problem with this comparison other than the rank idiocy is that Elysium utterly fails at (only one of the things) what those films succeed: creating a lived in world, with characters that relate to, and are a product of, their environment. No, Elysium is a confused world, written by someone desperate to make a point. This, as I thought biking away, is liberalism on steroids (liberals don’t take steroids. Jojoba?). It is the logical end of liberalism, that the rich don’t want the poor to have health care, even if there’s apparently a ton of it just lying around. The rich are, just, like, super evil and stuff.

Liberalism on goji berries is boring politics, but even worse filmmaking. It’s not the pedanticism, it’s the narrative slackness. The characters don’t want anything; they’re not even evil, or good, changing desires and directions to follow the agenda. This is normally a pre-ordained story, but in the case of Elysium we must be told something insightful, made worse by the fact that ‘people do stuff just to be mean’ doesn’t actually count as insight. Weird that it’s just the kind of thing that rich people would say about the poor. Christ, it makes me want to turn into an evil capitalist.

Right. ‘Turn into’.

Lazy, lazy, lazy. Why they're as lazy as a sombrero-wearing, taco-eating, nap-taking American on vacation in Mexico.

Even so, do I – could anyone – hate the poor as much as this filmmaker does? No, and I’ll tell you why: I would have given them motives. This is, in general, the problem with Marxism: if the poor are so stupid and will do whatever the rich say, why do you want to help them? Right, they’ll make such excellent slaves. You really do love them.

This hatelove translates, in movie terms, to attempts to recreate the US-Mexican, UK-African (it’s a long story, basically immigrants get to mainland europe and wait in Calais to sneak into the UK. They made it to Europe, but really wanted to go to the place with the great health care and welcoming attitude) borders, where people steal spaceships and fly to Elysium to get healed in a medi-pod dealie. This is much easier than, I don’t know, stealing one of the machines, which are built on earth, and then, I don’t know, using it. Jeez, why don’t they just press the ‘everyone becomes a citizen button’?

Oh right. That’s what actually happens.

I’m not kidding.

Elysium

21 August 2013 @ The BFI London IMAX


-$1.50 or, if one must be prosaic, and one must... 
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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But they’re poor! They don’t really do anything, or want anything. They’re stupid and they need a filmmaker to tell them what to do. Or rather give them convenient and inexplicable ad-hoc motives. And from that, you would think the film would be genius, in its insane gonewrongedness. But it’s simply that the film, story- and camera-wise, isn’t so much awful as it is irritating. At the point where you think you’ve reached the limits of what your brain can tolerate shakycam-wise, Hr. Neill Blomkamp turns on a strobe and a rain-machine. Look at the cartoon. It was rain, okay?

I didn’t charge you to look at it, did I?

Secondly, occasional decent story ideas are squandering in baffling and easy to fix ways. Mr. Damon, for example, is in an convoluted industrial accident, giving him five days to live; other than the ham-handed set-up this is straightforward storytelling: a specific time, and consequences. The gangster proceeds to tell us (ahem, I mean tells the character, of course. He’s not explaining things to the audience) that Mr. Damon is just the person he’s been waiting for. It’s a plan that only someone with nothing to lose would do.

I had been battered up to this point, but I was hopeful. What kind of weird surgery, death-mission, nickelodeon goo-dump would he have to endure? This could be redeemed. The mission… kidnap some rich guy. And I’m sending some of my men along to help you. Yes, I could have done it with anyone. But I need one more guy. And technically speaking, you are, one more guy. That’s what I was waiting for.

Lazy, lazy, lazy. Why they’re as lazy as a sombrero-wearing, taco-eating, nap-taking American on vacation in Mexico. In a way, I don’t even mind – as much – when this kind of mechanical crap pushes the story along, but there doesn’t really even seem to be much of a story here. Instead, we have situations which Are Along The Hero’s Journey. This is the kind of three act Robert McKee crap that I detest. There’s a difference between having tension in a story and having characters explain that we should be feeling it. At this point, says the filmmaker, looking up from the manual, there is a choice for our hero. And, through a kind of telephone game, of producers notes, foreign market expectations and plain old not knowing what to do, this translates into another character telling us that this is a choice for our hero.

Another example: The Villain tells the Love Interest, ‘I was going to heal your daughter. But now she’ll never get healed’, which, through the various translations and rewrites is changed to ‘I was going to heal your daughter. But now she’ll never get healed.’

Word. For. Word.

Look there are some great bits in this film; the humorless robot police are Wall•E worthy. The way in which they can follow the rules is terrifying and real. This small part of the film embodies great satire, which isn’t about the future, but our present: scary because it feels familiar. There was something in this film, and as such it’s no Man of Steel or Evil Dead: utterly irredeemable. Which just makes me sad. Like About Time, it’s infused with a kind of wealth guilt that ruins the chance of insight into politics and, god forbid for a film, human motivation, that might make for something fun or heart-wrenching. Fortunately, the solution has presented itself:

They just have to pay him less money.

The Take

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Profits!
Said humorless robot cop. Also nice, the humorless parole officer. Rightly horrifying.
$4.00
The D.O.A. setup of five days to live is timeless.
$2.00
Total Profits
$6.00
Losses!
I want to shaky the shakycam so hard that, well that my shaking cancels out its shakiness and become a normalcam. It’s a peaceful solution to the problem.
$3.00
Ms. Jodie Foster hates immigrants. This is in diametrical opposition to the government. They hate immigrants. Okay. We have got to start reading these before making them.
$2.00
Putting a cherry blossom tree on a giant hovering factory platform, and somehow not being campy. What is this, Bioshock: Infinite?
$2.50
Total Losses
$7.50

-$1.50

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