So ELYSIUM is going to be good, right? Right?!
Purely based on plot description and who’s involved, I am thrilled with this movie. A sci-fi film with large symbolic possibilities (it’s about the future, but it is really about today!) from Neill Blomkamp, the director of DISTRICT 9 the last (arguably!) sci-fi movie that also nailed its symbolic possibilities! Starring Matt Damon, the second best actor from Boston (Ben Affleck forever)! Mel Gibson’s inexplicable best friend Jodie Foster! The human scene stealer William Fichtner! Sharlto Copley first movie in three years! And so on.
On the other hand, it is being released in August, not a great sign of confidence from the studios. It says, “People will see this to escape the heat. People will not see it in temperate weather or, worse yet, if they have to travel outside while it is cold,” and that’s disconcerting.
However, I’m embracing optimism. It’s going to be great!
I tipped my hand above, but I’ll confirm it here. I like this movie. I like it quite a bit as matter of fact.
Copley is nicely real in the lead role, his first (I think) cinematic acting gig. The premise, of aliens arriving on Earth and finding they can’t leave due to manufacturing problems with their ship, was a unique take on the alien invasion trope. Even better though is where Blomkamp and company take the plot after that, an allegory for apartheid. What’s more impressive is a.) it is actually a pretty light touch while still getting the point across and b.) it works for almost any in/out group conflict. Race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. It is the “best” fit for apartheid as it was conceived that way, but it definitely translates beyond that.
The film also deserves praise for the amount of practical effects it utilizes and utilizes well. This is especially noteworthy because unlike a lot of small budget practical effects sci-fi films, 9 does not rely on darkness to hide bad effects, makeup work or character design. The film trusts in its product and lets its creatures walk around in full daylight.
Ok…yes, this is a weird one. But try to follow me here on why.
1.) ELYSIUM revolves around a have/have-not world in which the rich and privilege live in the sky above the Earth while everyone else is stuck on planet. The implication is that up above nearly all inconvenience (even cancer, if you want to call cancer inconvenient) has been eliminated by technology above but none of that is shared with the working class and poor below.
2.) This reminded me of the Eloi and the Morlocks in The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. However, the 2002 (?) film adaptation is a whole lot of not good so I didn’t want to sit through that again and I totally forgot about the 1960 version until I started to write this piece.
3.) So I brainstormed other movies that featured a similar dichotomy, but couldn’t stop coming back to Gary Sinise’s speech about Machine in RANSOM.
4.) So, I thought, why fight it.
5.) Jodie Foster (from ELYSIUM) and Mel Gibson (from RANSOM) are friends, as mentioned earlier.
So, yes, it is out of left field. But there was a method to my madness, honest.
And now, on to the film.
RANSOM is a ridiculously crowd pleasing movie, a great bit of right down the middle film making. It is not Ron Howard’s best flick. It probably isn’t the best for any of the players involved. And yet…and yet. Looking over Howard’s filmography I’m not sure he’s made another movie I’d return to as often or that moves as well as RANSOM does. It is ludicrous in all the right ways.
Watch it today…I think you’ll agree.
And thank me for not subjecting you to THE TIME MACHINE.