Sunday, December 22, 2013

Video review: "Elysium"

“Elysium” was one of my personal biggest disappointments of 2013. Along with “Pacific Rim,” it was one of the two summer films I had alighted upon as holding the most potential for thrills. Alas, while “Rim” soared as high as expectations, “Elysium” was a clanky, clunky mess.

Set in the year 2154, “Elysium” imagines a world in which all the rich people have departed the planet to float serenely in a grand space station where they make their home. There everyone is happy and healthy, due in large part to the amazing medical beds everyone has in their houses that can instantly cure any sickness or heal every wound.

Down on Earth it’s a different story: it’s overcrowded, environmentally fouled, crime is rampant and healthcare elusive. Needless to say, the downtrodden are very eager to get up to Elysium to make use of these magic cure boxes, so illegal immigration is a big problem for the richies.

Matt Damon is a worker drone who accidentally gets irradiated and only has five days to live. Outfitted with a powerful exo-skeleton by some criminal types, he agrees to do a dirty job in exchange for a trip to Elysium. But things grow more complicated when he gets caught up in a political plot involving the conniving defense minister (Jodie Foster). She sics her fearsome pet mercenary (Sharlto Copley) on him, and the latter half of the film essentially becomes one long chase scene.

The action sequences are engaging enough in their own right, but the attempt to continually draw parallels with our own time are rather blatant, not to mention inept. If those privileged folks have so many of the miraculous medical devices, why wouldn’t they install a few planet-side – if for no other reason, to address their problem with infiltrators?

Writer/director Neill Blomkamp (“District 9”) comes up with some terrifically original ideas. But “Elysium” bogs down in boneheaded plotting and political posturing.

Bonus features are aren’t bad, though they tend to focus more on the nuts-and-bolts of filming a big-budget science fiction film than the creative process.

The DVD contains just two featurettes, one focusing on assembling the cast and crew, and the other on designing the utopian space station. Go for the Blu-ray set and you get three more featurettes on the technology and visual effects to depict the distant future. You also get an extended scene and “The Journey to Elysium,” a video diary covering the pre-production, film shoot and post-production processes.



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