Monday, August 12, 2013

Elysium: A Review

So, first off, do you say Ee-leez-ee-um or do you say Ee-lis-ee-um? My brother used the latter, which I assumed was an affectation, him being what he is.

Regardless, Elysium, from the Elysian Fields, the blissful realm of the blessed dead, was appropriately named for the Beverly Hills crowd and hedge-fund types that occupy the big giant space torus in orbit.

Unlike the rest of humanity's space experiences to date, which involve pooping into a baggie, being thoroughly sleeted through and through with cosmic rays, and (on one occasion) running out of air, along with similar indignities, the Beverly Hills crowd gets off easily. That goes for the movie as well. The worst that happens to the 1% is that they now have new neighbors from the wrong side of the tracks as fellow citizens.

Oh dear, the great unwashed, and such awful people, enjoying the fruits of their labors. Teddible, teddible!

Did I spoil the movie for you? Oh come on, you know it was about universal health care, right?  In any case, the themes were secondary, window dressing for the fun. And this movie is about fun, explosion filled, gun-toting, occasionally grisly and gory fun. I know some guy at the Daily Kos complained that this could have been a great movie, a message movie, but I've noticed lately that if something is great or good, but not perfect, possessing even a single blemish, it is therefore shit.

When this Seinfeldian selection disease of unreasonable standards got started, I'm not sure, but I would opine that "perfect is the enemy of good", so Shut the Fuck Up Brittle Daily Kos Critic.

Set in the year 2154, and the rich fortunate do what they always do, which is to live in style in gated communities  away from the hoi-polloi. (Remember dearies, the word "paradise" is from the ancient Persian pairidaeza, a compound of pairi- "around", and diz "to make a wall", as in to make a wall around, with a sign that says "Not for you!"). How predictable. (And it could turn out the fortunate are much more predictable than we realized).

The Earth is a shit-hole, overcrowded, polluted, and, well, not so nice a place to live. The rich fortunate 1% have moved on up, skee-daddled to a pimped out two-kilometer-wide space station in orbit, with lots of lawn parties (and thus lawns) and mansions, and oh, yes, very important, these magical medical cabinets that can cure everything.

Jody Foster is standing on the walls, the defense secretary who gets annoyed when a guerilla underground organization occasionally gets a shuttle-load of passengers up and in, so that the crippled and terminally ill can be cured by the magical medical cabinets. She employs a barbarian named Kruger, played by Sharlto Copley to keep the riff-raff out, blasting them out of the sky with some nifty little missiles that Al Qaeda would give both nuts to possess. When Foster's methods are questioned, she opts for a coup, and has a desperate billionaire (whose defense company is struggling) write a new operating system for the space station that will reboot her into power.

Meanwhile, Matt Damon,  ex-con and factory worker in the employ of desperate billionaire, gets radiation poisoning in an industrial accident. Given five days to live, he needs to get to the space station for the cure. He goes to his former criminal bosses, who will get him up there provided he pull a job involving stealing the brain secrets of the desperate billionaire.

Damon is fitted with what looks like Russian military exo-suit technology that makes him super strong, and sent with a team to kidnap the desperate billionaire's brain secrets. The heist goes pear-shaped when Kruger shows up and starts blasting the shit out of everything that moves, and then-

Okay, you know what? You want a synopsis? Read this. I'd rather geek out and tell you what I liked and didn't like. Actually there are few things I didn't like.

I had a problem with Copley's South African accent. I could barely understand every other fucking word he said. I had the same problem with District 9, which is why I waited for it to come out on DVD so I could use the subtitle option. But Copley and his team did a great job playing barbarians, and it was nice to see some historical accuracy in the trend that, if you are gonna employ badass-motherfuckers, you better be even more of a badass-motherfucker than they are, or be swept from power.

(I've voiced this idea before, and I will again. Forget fucking 3D glasses. Give me some subtitle glasses! And if you come up with that app on your Google glass, be sure to give me credit, and maybe a cut of the proceeds!)

It's true that some of the dialog was cringe-worthy, but it's an action movie, so what do you want? I heard some critics complaining that Jody Foster's performance was rigid and stilted.  Uh... She's playing Maggie Thatcher/Angela Merkel, (and the character's last name is Delacourt, which means English is a second language to her) so of course her performance is brittle. She's playing a chilly brittle bitch you chowderheads! I did think Foster quit too easily and readily. Brittle bitches rarely die well or cleanly, so there must have been a backstory around her submissive death we were not party to.

Science-wise there were problems. I don't know what the technology the medical cabinets were using, but it must have been teleportation. I mean, you are cured of even the most debilitating conditions in seconds. (There is a scene where Kruger's face gets reconstructed which made me, yes, even me, go "Ew!") And the rocket motors on all the shuttles and missiles are running on what? I don't know. Something beyond fusion or matter/antimatter because there are no visible fuel tanks and a thing the size of a stretch limo has no problem going from ground to orbit with no refueling. Okay, yeah, so what? It's 150 years in the future, and if I don't have a problem with Star Trek pulling this shit (and in my more literally minded, partially in the autism spectrum days I used to, but not now) , why not give the movie some slack?

(Apparently they don't worry about if those are nuclear rockets, but then, considering we exploded half a gigaton of nuclear weapons over the course of fifty years in real life, so what? I mean, had those fifty years of nuclear test been compressed into a day, you'd have called that WWIII).

Some of the action scenes were shot in a way that was distracting, bordering on Michael Bey behavior, but for the most part the editing and cinematography was done well. The visual effects were spot on, and rich with detail. I think nowadays, with sophistication of CGI, that's more a matter of dearth of imagination than technique. Hollywood being a magnet for the visually gifted, one would not expect otherwise.

The robots. Hmm. Clearly humans are still cheaper than robots. The robots were not intelligent. That could have been design or movie pragmatism. But you got to figure, with 150 years of trial and error, at the very least just aping brain structure, you would have artificial intelligence. But people are still running things, and building things. So, it could be, as it stands now, that people make the best robots. Hard to improve on nature when it comes to compact, energy-efficient, self-sustaining and general purpose automatons like us animals. It's possible the best solution is to just tack on mechanical override on the brain, and use people as robots. In any case, doesn't really matter. They were there for what they needed to be there for.

I have speculated in the previous essay that perhaps it would be the working poor who live-to-work in space, and the fortunate who occupy an Earth, relieved of humanity, healed of her own accord. As I've said before, Space is a shitty place to live. (And talk about natural selection, those who don't work up there, don't live).

But rethinking that as a movie producer, I start seeing the budget go through the roof, as if was not big enough already, showing all of these space-modified and mutilated lumpen-proles. Plus the stunning visual of a luxury space station, I'd probably have come around to the movie's scenario. And besides, it was all about how shitty things are right now anyway, so there's no need to make it exotic and even more costly by basing most of it in space).

All in all, I was happy with seeing the movie. I will watch again when out on DVD.

Whoops! And! Pictures! This is the last glass casting for awhile. I got two that are rewards I'm trying to get ready, but there's no certainty I'll get them in the kiln before my procedure Wednesday. So, here's the glass. I'm pleased with this one. I think it actually looks better framed in aluminum and not backlit for once.


  1. I now want to see this movie. And I agree about the framed version of the glass casting.

    1. Thanks for your valued input re: the glass! I might actually get good at these by the time I'm out of materials.

      As to the movie, a woman seated behind me apologized profusely to her group during the credits. Not everyone's cup of tea.

    2. " I might actually get good at these by the time I'm out of materials." You better buy more materials.