Elysium and the Disenfranchised Middle Aged White Guy

Neill Blomkamp is known for his work on District 9, a futuristic allegory substituting aliens for minorities. His next project Elysium tries to make the disenfranchisement of minorities and the poor a key part of its theme. But it fails miserably. Because, really, how disenfranchised in decently attractive middle age white guy anyway?
The trailer prepares you for a heist movie as Matt Damon becomes a cyborg to break into the elite space station Elysium. But in truth, the plot is not that simple or compelling. Damon plays Max a snarky ex-con who hustles robot cops who abuse him sending him to the local hospital. There Max reunites with his childhood friend and love interest who has returned to the area to provide health care to the poor. Earth suffers at the hands of regular doctors supplies while those on Elysium hop into a machine that recreates their bodies ridding them of disease and aging. Max has no use for Elysium until he is exposed to radiation at the robot factory he works at. Max just wants to prolong his life while a hacker wants to Elysium-Movie-1break into Elysium’s computer systems and make every Earthling an Elysium citizen. Meanwhile, Jodie Foster’s Delacourt is planning a coup. She has the original programmer write a new program that will allow her to control Elysium but her plans are foiled when Max gets the program instead.
The plot is highly complicated and really doesn’t make sense. There are so many plot holes and inconsistencies that nothing flows together and the movie becomes unbelievable. The surgery is done in a dirty room without anesthesia and antibiotics and Max is magically revived with cybernetic parts implanted over his shirt. And Max getting radiated? The factory machine can detect organic material in the radiation chamber but has no safety feature to make sure it’s not radiated. The biggest question of all; if life sucks so much and his existence is horrible, why does he care so much about prolonging that it?
The space station is the most interesting part of the equation. The Greek version of Elysium is the beautiful afterlife for humans that have been chosen by the gods. While this is seems appropriate, the film does not spend much time on Elysium to answer pertinent questions or really develop the allusion. For example, if no one ages on Elysium and their bodies are rebuilt why are their people Foster and William Fichtner’s age? Shouldn’t everyone be young? And if people don’t die, the population has to be controlled, but how? It is evident people are propagating on Elysium.
It’s easy to see they parallels between health care and immigration in the film but those ideas are shoved the side by the hero being played by the second most entitled sect of people: the middle aged white guy. The first? The rich white guy. Sure Max is an ex con, but in the grand scheme of life that demographic has been the least oppressed. It is difficult to portray the complex intricacies of prejudice when the hero of the disenfranchised is historically privileged.
Elysium tries too hard to make a statement and lacks a quality plot. While the movie looks good (the CG seamlessly transfers over the live action), Elysium is a contrived tale that fails to live up to the District 9 standard.

Summer Showdown Part 2

Movies walk a fine line when using surrealism. The producers have to encourage viewers to suspend disbelief without them questioning it. Films have notoriously bombed when it didn’t understood when they crossed this line. The Lone Ranger and Furious 6 go head to head as surreal, and, therefore fun, summer flicks.

Johnny and His Horse

771313_017The Long Ranger is a decent film but overall it lacks the true “legend” of what we know as The Lone Ranger. Though Johnny Deep and Armie Hammer are fabulous together, the movie fails to bewitch viewers.

The Lone Ranger is an origins story. Hammer plays John Reid as lawyer who looks like the Western version How I Met Your Mother‘s Marshal. When he joins his brother to tail a villain (William Fichtner) it means both their deaths, but John is chosen to come back. Ostracized Native American Tonto finds the law man and helps him on his quest to take down the villain and become the man in the mask.

The film is strongest when Depp and Hammer are allowed to flex their humor muscles. Their chemistry is reminiscent of Jackie Chan’s and Owen Wilson’s comradeship in Shanghai Noon. They are a hoot to watch, especially when discussing “kemo sabe” actually meant. In fact, Depp is the shining star of the movie. Tonto injects humor when the plot becomes bland and, with Silver, moves the story forward.

The movie suffers because it fails to perpetuate the legend that is the Lone Ranger. Until the conflict/resolution scene towards the end, there is nothing very mythical about the Lone Ranger. This action sequence was pure Western fantasy that delights like the old stories. We know it could never possibly be real and we love that about it. Everything that comes before plot wise is just a crappy Western with a titular character who was Mostly Dead. The audience leaves unsatisfied.

Ride or Die

fast_and_furious_6Fast & Furious 6 does not suffer from the lack of surrealism. It shines brightly as an insane action flick that is just about fun and spectacle. While some seriousness is injected into the film, the creators never lose track of what the movie was made for: blowing up fast cars.

The plot? Who the hell cares? But here’s a recap for you. Dom and Brian (or in my world Paul Walker and Vin Diesel; they have no other names) are living the high life after the heist featured in Fast Five. Brian is a father, and Dom seems happy with his new girlfriend.  They have no interest in changing the status quo when Hobbs asks for their help with a military robbery. But when they find out Letty is alive, all bets are off. The two pull together the majority of their heist team to take down the perpetrators and rescue Letty.

The film is full of the absurd action sequences fans love. Use a Mustang to anchor a tank? No problem. Bring down a military grade plane? We got this. The script contains plenty of asinine dialogue but many of them are truly funny (this is the only time I will ever profess love for Ludacris). The story gets a little heavy but then Brian arranges to go to prison one night and then ridiculousness returns. The movie is high adrenaline fun, causing exclamations of amazement and astonishment leaking from viewer’s lips at every turn.

The franchise isn’t over yet. In a year, audience will get their high octane high with a sixth entry (excuse me, seventh installment; Tokyo Drift actually happened, huh?). This is welcome as long as producers remove what makes these movies so popular. The only thing weighing them down is the producers’ wish to add B-list action stars with nominal acting talent. SPOILER ALERT: I’ve had to put up with Dwayne Johnson in the last two and now to add Jason Statham into the mix? Give me a break. Here’s what makes these movies work: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel and Michele Rodriguez. We don’t need anything else.

F&F6 speeds away in this competition leaving Tonto and the Lone Ranger hobbling along on Silver’s crippled legs.