Saturday, May 3, 2014

Elysium Sinks

Elysium irritates me to no end. I saw it a week ago on cable TV. Neill Blomkamp was the writer and director, famed for his nuanced District 9. Elysium is an utter mess of a movie. For one, it cost 110 million dollars to make and yet none of that money is on the screen. Lincoln cost less to make, around $45 MILLION LESS. What the fuck?

Nothing makes sense to me. The protagonist has to have a chip implanted in his brain to hack data in another guy's brain chip, yet the data was put into the victim's brain chip by a computer...and another computer, a freaking palmtop, is used to get it out and transfer it into the protagonist's brain. Here's an idea, just keep the data in the palmtop!

But that would spoil the plot gimmicks later in the film.  This movie is all-plot-gimmicks-all-the-time. It has just enough action in it to earn its money back. Elysium would be a huge hit if it cost, say, ONLY $60 million, but as it is, it barely broke even.

Much of the future environment the movie is set in fails, as if a Lexus passes Lincoln's carriage or Union soldiers armed with AKs. An orbital ring habitat full of rich folks completely defenseless except for one guy on the ground with some RPGs. They'd have orbital defense platforms around that thing like jewels around an heiress's neck. An exosuit that is completely useless, worse than that, the protagonist has to wear it because the brain chip somehow depends on the suit...except the brain chip isn't necessary in the first place.

The soul of a good movie was in there, buried under lazy writing and plot devices so flimsy they can't hold water. What will the fate of humanity be under the 1%? We know from Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century that the wealth of the 1% will only become more dominant, more concentrated as the decades pass, to the point of complete tyranny at some point in the future. What will that future look like? That's the real question Blomkamp started with, but he failed to answer it. We can only assume two things, either his talent wasn't up to the job, or he was lazy. The question doesn't go away, how ruined will the lives of our descendants be?  The answer is the movie I wanted to see.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.