Saturday, October 26, 2013

3 Short Paragraphs: Elysium

2013, Neill Blomkamp (District 9) -- cinema

Even if Blomkamp never again does as ground breaking a scifi movie as District 9 was, i will probably always count him amongst my favourite of directors. I rather loved Elysium despite the story being quite facile. Shot in a different genre, this would have been a typical west LA movie where our anti-hero, who used to be a boy in the hood, is forced back from his attempt to go straight to pull off one final job; and it goes really really bad. Blomkamp takes this recognizable crime story and shifts it to LA a 150 years from now, when things have really really gone to shit.

In fact, Earth itself has gone to shit. The rich people abandoned it to live high above in a somewhat-Dyson ring space station. They left everyone else behind to work the crappy factories and live in giant shanty towns that probably cover almost every inch of surface. The poor work, get sick and die while the rich are idle and have magic med beds that heal all ills. This world is so fucking tangible I just loved it, obviously like the last movie, inspired by the shanty towns of Joburg. But there is a familiar hint of favelas there, as the people live half-way decent lives amidst the crap, doing jobs and raising kids, if you don't mind living in squalor. Where everything about Elysium, the space station, seemed plastic or CGI, Earth was dusty and rusty and so very real.

Damon's character is an ex-con working a factory job when he is fatally injured, forcing him back to the crime boss he worked for, to take that one last job. If he gets enough cash, he can buy his way onto a coyote style space shuttle, to break into the space station and use one of the med beds to heal himself, before his time runs out. To assist, the crime boss fits him in an exo skeleton that increases his strength and agility. That is the thing I love about Blomkamp -- his tech. The need for this thing of all hydraulics and electrics is minimal but it looks so good, so rough and ready. Add to that the rusting shuttles, the grungy street samurai played by Sharlto Copley and the nimble robots that do most of the dirty work for the citizens of Elysium and I am enamoured with Blomkamp's sense of design and setting. I just hope he can snag much more compelling scripts in the future.