August 15, 2013

'Elysium' interesting, entertaining


---- — Of all the dystopian adventures to come out this summer — and there have been many — “Elysium” may have the best credentials.

It stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, and comes from the fertile mind of Neill Blomkamp, who created the 2009 delight “District 9.”

The finished product, unfortunately, probably slots in behind “Oblivion” and “Pacific Rim,” though it’s far, far ahead of “After Earth.” That is, it’s mildly disappointing, but still very watchable.

“Elysium” is set about 140 or so years in the future. The world still looks pretty familiar, but it is dirty, rundown and massively overcrowded. People are hungry, work is hard to find, and good luck trying to get treatment for that burst appendix.

What does it mean that “Star Trek” is the only movie that sees any hope for Earth?

It’s not all bleak in the 22nd century though, at least not if you have money. The 1-percenters live on an enormous and beautiful space station that orbits the planet. Here the grass is green, the people speak French, and every mansion has a device that can instantly cure any ailment, no matter how severe.

Damon plays Max, an ex-con trying to go straight, until he gets a lethal dose of radiation at his dead-end job. A robot tells him he has five days to live, thanks him for his service and sends him on his way.

If only he could get to Elysium and one of those instant-cure machines …

A shaven-headed Damon is just fine as Max, lending some dramatic heft to the part and holding his own in the many combat scenes. He joins forces with some rebellious criminals, gets a combat suit and hard drive grafted onto his body, and tries to find a way onto the life-giving station.

Jodie Foster doesn’t fare nearly as well as Secretary Delacourt, the stern protector of Elysium. It’s a one-note role, and Foster doesn’t add anything to it. Sharlto Copley, the star of “District 9,” is Delacourt’s shady henchman, Kruger, but he’s mostly manic and is hard to understand at times.

Alice Braga (“Predators”) lends some plot complications as Max’s childhood friend and potential love interest.

“Elysium” is derivative and a little predictable. It’s interesting and entertaining, and has its heart in the right place, but the script is awkward and not as strong as the inventive “District 9.”

Still, Blomkamp is someone worth keeping an eye on in the future. The dark, dark future.

Rental Recommendation: “District 9” was funny, clever and extremely violent. Grade: A-

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Grade: B

Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley

Rated: R (for strong bloody violence and language throughout)

Running time: 109 minutes