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    September 5, 2013


    In Greek mythology, Elysium is a mythical field where only the reserved mortals related to the gods and other heroes admitted afterlife, blessed upon with happy and luxurious life. To put it on our perspective, we would find it easy to describe Elysium simply as heaven. As it turns out, this concept of Elysium was now explored by South African director Neill Blomkamp in his latest effort entitled “Elysium”. This humanism science-fiction which sets the year 2154 when the world is divided into two social classes - the poor is left to struggle in the dying scorched-Earth while the rich enjoys the luxurious, cancer-free life in the Stanford torus known as Elysium. “Elysium” follows the journey of Max, an ordinary Earth’s citizen who is stricken from lethal radiation but otherwise is determine to ship his way into Elysium for medical help. But his only problem is that Elysium is a place that will not welcome anyone like him.

    Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
    Classification: 18
    Release Date: 22 August 2013
    Running Time: 109 minutes
    Distributor: Sony Pictures (TriStar)
    Director: Neill Blomkamp
    Screenplay: Neill Blomkamp
    Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Wagner Moura, Alice Braga

    Plot: 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.
    Back in 2009, Blomkamp’s “District 9” was among the top film of that year and was also a memorable science fiction film that tells about the social injustice right in the middle of the third world nation. The picturesque of a gigantic alien space ship hovering motionlessly above the city of Johannesburg is an allegory of the contrary that explores humanism among humanism. By hoping to emulate that amazing visionary streak and story-telling success, “Elysium” continues to explore some of the similar and familiar themes as been played in “D9” which include immigration, social segregation and socio-political concerns while also pours in new concern on the healthcare policies. But even when “Elysium” follows the exact mould of “D9”, it ends up somewhere in between the disappointment, albeit it is still a strong visual feature that truly ignites with the heavy issues around.

    The story, beyond the good camouflage for the complex mixture of analytic issues, lays the underlying concern on the story-lines. The movie can proved to be a creative challenge for those who are unfamiliar with Blomkamp’s work and also can be confusing for ordinary and casual movie-goers. The consequences are the noticeable major problems for which “Elysium” is all too similarly structured to “D9”, weakly edited into a more coherent scripture and most of the time just feels all too forcibly rushed. Although the plot is not as strong as I hoped for, “Elysium” is still a decent science fiction flick that gives a lot of analytic depth on all the themes it carries. It is a craft product of interesting intertwining story arcs that resolute on moral ambiguity with satisfactory deliverance on some of the executions. The other most fascinating thing is perhaps the ability of the movie to deliver sensible messages and to address the outlying needs for a proper healthcare reform, reversing social injustice (1% versus 99%) and relaxing immigration restriction. Nevertheless, it still has a better vision and solid overall story than, let’s say - Oblivion and After Earth.

    The first act of the movie paints a good juxtaposition on the issues in both the Earth and at Elysium, with a coat of emotional glimpse into what shapes the characters of Max DeCosta (Matt Damon) and Frey Santiago (Alice Braga) into the present day. We are also introduced with a vivid vision of how the world will look like in decades to come if our existing problems are not fixed – sickly, poverty and politically a police state run world that go on beyond disrepair. But there are something lacking in those two main characters, perhaps something that should represents bigger compelling character story than emotional play when they were both young. Perhaps it is true that Blomkamp is still not competent in building character story after all. But it makes no sense when “D9” has some good character development despite the same limitations. Matt Damon does not necessary get a convincingly butt-kicking role to play with and instead is a man who relies only on pills and exoskeleton to survive the adventure but otherwise still able to anchor the role with enough share of believable motivation in him.

    As the movie progresses into the critical second act, the aforementioned themes serve merely only as a background of something loud. Amidst the somewhat chaotic plot that pursues onward,  it does sufficiently enough to cruise into the third act. The movie kicks into high-technology displays and standard high-octane action sequences that can either depicted dumber for Blomkamp’s high standard of “D9” or smarter than other apocalyptic science fictions. Indeed, the major success for “Elysium” is the fact that the visual effect is done right to justify the accordance of the snappy shaky-camera work. The representation of the landscape and cinematography of the world-building set pieces are also brilliant enough. Another workable character which is introduced in the second act is Agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley), who is nothing more than the bad news for Max, as he proved himself a competent psychopathic antagonist. Jodie Foster, on the other hand, seems to have her worst screen performance ever – playing the Secretary of Defence with bad French-ethnical accents on her tongue.

    For better or worse, “Elysium” may have cringe on the mediocre, familiar, rushed and derivative plot story but is otherwise still able to make some impact by punching in the social and political themes into an effective nimble and being ultimately smarter and more reliable than other average science fiction flicks of the era. It goes along reasonably satisfactory with the strong visual effect and stunning world-building concept.

    If you are unsure about Elysium, watch the full length trailer here and get the early picture:

    Story: 3.5
    Casts: 3.5
    Cinematography: 5.0
    Effects: 4.5
    GREEN-TEA-O-METER: 14.5/20.0

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