Sunday, August 11, 2013

Elysium Revisited: Seven More Reasons It Failed

I was so baffled by Elysium's morass of tediousness that I neglected the following points in my review from earlier today. Without delay then, and still with spoilers, Seven More Reasons Elysium Failed:

1. The use of music in Elysium is doubly offensive. First, the soundtrack is just a bashing, booshing rip off from the soundtracks to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. In a number of pointless scenes, we simply watch activity of tertiary importance as the soundtrack clanks along trying to add a sense of urgency. There's also no visual complement or contrast to the music: it's just cobbled together.

Second and more grievous is the idiotic and ham-fisted attempt to characterize the people by music. The poor people listen to rock and roll and the rich listen to classical music, Bach in particular. What does this mean? That poor people don't need or want spiritual and intellectual uplift? That rich people don't listen to rock and roll?

2. The use of accents and languages is equally preposterous, with the residents of Elysium speaking English and French and the people on Earth, English and Spanish. So let's first admit that English is incidental here and only present because the director couldn't pitch a movie where everyone speaks French and Spanish. In a world supposedly grown from today's, when and why does French make a comeback? Why is it the language of Elysium anyway? Poor people spoke French when it was the language of high society, and poor Romans spoke Latin when it was, and so on. So? What's the point here, other than getting beaten into believing the director's arbitrary conceptions by his weighty fists of ham?

3. On Earth, people have colorful tattoos and on Elysium people have scarified tattoos. Neither is more meaningful or expensive or symbolic, so who cares? One might be inclined to brush these off as details, but they give us a number of close up shots of the denizens' tattoos on Elysium, so it's not unreasonable to ask questions. Why are they different at all? In fact, today tattooing has risen up the social ladder, so what gives?

4. It might seem illogical to call Elysium pretentious when it has so few ideas, but it is the simplicity itself which is pretentious insofar as in the absence of ideas, the presence of difference–between the people Earth and on Elysium–is meant to imply something. Not only is that something unstated and not hinted at, but it is impossible to derive from the context. Are we meant to imply inevitable conflict? Injustice? Malevolence? Subjugation? If so, the movie needed dialogue and ideas, even if it wanted the action to be open to interpretation. If the director wanted to be wholly dispassionate or lean documentarian, like say, Gus Van Sant or Werner Herzog , then he chose the wrong lead actor, plot, and tone. When we see Max, on the one hand he's a nice working guy, playing with the local kids, working, and trying not to fall back into crime even though he has lucrative skills, and on the other hand he endangers Frey and her daughter to save himself and then won't help them, until he changes his mind. The result is confusion, not an ending open for debate.

5. Max's world is overcrowded and unpleasant to be sure, but food is plentiful enough for him to be in perfect physical shape, he has indoor plumbing and electricity, and he has a job. Any sense of historical context has to put one's sympathy in context here as well. There's also public transportation and a police force, although the police are clearly aggressive. In fact, the one scene where Max is searched and detained had potential significance, but it never fit in anywhere. Who runs the police? Do citizen's have rights?

6. The administrators of Elysium use contemporary political jargon like illegals and homeland security. Is this supposed to mean something?

7. Why does the movie leave undeveloped the part where Kruger, the psychotic mercenary working for Delacourt, starts taking over Elysium? This would have been an interesting twist to Delacourt's machinations had they been more developed, but it's actually just a twist to keep Kruger around and in Max's way.

The above aren't even plot holes or inconsistencies, just ways in which Elysium didn't actually mean anything. A most disappointing and frustrating piece, Elysium is a sophomoric movie which, despite its pretensions, is unsure of itself.

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