We went into this movie with high hopes. After all, Neil Blomkamp directed District 9 which astounded and grossed us out by turns. But in a good way. It's hard to find big-budget films with original concepts these days, so while Elysium was technically a new story, the product was so wrapped in CGI that I felt I was rewatching an older movie.
The basic premise of the story is that Earth has been overpopulated and the rich have removed themselves to an orbiting paradise known as Elysium. The poor folk left on Earth live in slums and work at back-breaking jobs eager for the day when they can save enough to pirate their way through the atmosphere and into someone's well-manicured backyard.
Matt Damon plays...bald Matt Damon. He's an orphan with a vague female interest in his past and a yearning to get out of his current job by any means possible. We learn he's had some run-ins with the law before as evidenced by his demeanor towards some beautifully CGI'd police robots and the friends he surrounds himself with. When he's hurt for mouthing off he finds his lady friend at the hospital and we realize that she is battling her own demons- trying to find care for her sick daughter. Through an unfortunate working (accident?) Damon is sentenced to die so now his only hope is a "healing" bed on Elysium- ruthlessly guarded by Jodi Foster with a strange accent and a stick up her butt.
There was some serious lack of motivation and gaping plot holes, but the CGI was flawless. If graphics have gotten that good then why the heck are movies wasting paltry money to pay for anything less than Elysium? Watching the trailers for Elysium and World War Z back to back is almost painful, but even the graphics couldn't save Elysium's downward spiral.
My biggest issue was the movie's insistence that you feel a certain way in response to what was happing. In most cases the muusic and/or editing supports and strengthens a movie. It helps to encourage the viewer by piquing interest and guiding their emotions. Elysium felt more like the movie was shoving the emotions down your throwat yelling FEEL THIS. Flashbacks, a rjising crescendo to warn the audience- it was all expressly spelled out for you. Personally, I think a movie's worst mistake is to assume the audience isn't smart enough to understand what was going on. Flashbacks have their time and place but the same shots repeated over and over again just loses my interest.
This is a bigger problem than you'd think. Foreign movies looking for a US distrubutor are often edited to pieced to make them more digesible for American audiences. Snowpiercer and The Grandmaster are case in point- where studios over-rule directors in favor of a better response from viewers. Much like the test screening I attended a few weeks ago, unfinished movies are run by test audiences for generic pointers. Negative feelings are often evidence enough to chop the movie.
By the end of the movie I was rolling my eyes- another flashback? Another gut-wrenching slow motion shot? I felt cheated out of the emotions I was legitimately feeling- too closely monitored by the movie and ultimately I decided I didn't like it.
But those robots looked pretty cool.