Silver Screen: Elysium **
Elysium, Neill Blomkamp’s anticipated followup to his breakout hit District Nine, is a slow-paced sci-fi shoot ‘em up masquerading as a thoughtful allegory. Though the movie is ostensibly agitprop for universal healthcare, the simplistic themes and their heavy-handed delivery mostly serve as an excuse for Blomkamp to dream up some big futuristic guns, then have star Matt Damon shoot them at people.
Blomkamp literalizes the ninety-nine percent/one percent divide by placing the world’s elite on a luxury space station called Elysium. There they lead nearly eternal lives of perfect harmony thanks to rapidly advanced medical technology, while back on overcrowded, sun-blasted Earth, the rest of the population lives a hardscrabble existence. Former crook turned hardworking prole Max (Damon) is content to toil until an industrial accident blasts him with radiation, leaving him with only days to live. Unwilling to wait out his inevitable demise, Max hatches a plan with his former underworld contacts to hijack a space ship and invade Elysium to steal free healthcare from one of their magical Med Beds, a hyperbolic contraption that can remedy literally any illness or injury in a matter of seconds.
Meanwhile, Elysium is on the verge of a silent coup led by Defense Minister Delacourt (Jodie Foster, doing a baffling hodgepodge accent), who plans to seize control from the president by changing a single line of code in Elysium’s computer system and making her supreme ruler-- which makes no sense whatsoever. Max’s mission puts him into conflict with Delacourt’s pet mercenary (District Nine’s Sharlto Copley).
District Nine was thoughtful and well-rendered, especially in its first half, but that film was none too subtle. By comparison, though, it’s as abstract and coded as a David Lynch film. Elysium barks its wildly simplistic message at the audience in between uninspired bouts of action. Only Copley seems to have any kind of fun, perhaps because his character is never tasked with delivering speeches about the availability of healthcare or the class conflicts the movie so dumbly literalizes. Damon, Diego Luna, Foster, Alice Braga, and the rest of the crew are stuck in what appears to be Ed Schultz’s fever dream of a Mad Max sequel.
Follow Bryan Miller on Twitter@bmillercomedy.