My Rating: 4 stars
I ended up liking this movie a lot more than I was expecting to. All the promo material made this movie look like it was going to be just another cynical excuse for us to watch Matt Damon be a fighting badass. (Who decided that that guy was an action star)? And, it does have elements of that floating around. There are a few too many shots of Damon slowly taking off his tank top to reveal his manly tattoos and rippling abs to be coincidence. But, I honestly think that Sharlto Copley steal the show from him. And, I’m not quite sure that was intentional. That guy is amazing! He can play anything. I’ve never seen such an astonishing chameleon before. He can play a sniveling, little weenie (District 9). A happy-go-lucky robot (Chappie). Or a cowardly and slimy villain (Maleficent). A depraved torturer (Oldboy). And in this case, an intimidating, dangerous, and criminally insane killing machine. It’s crazy. And, he’s the thing that really pulled me into the story.
This is a sci-fi flick, set in a dystopian future. The world has gone to shit, and the wealthy have escaped to Elysium, a beautiful and shining space station hovering just over old Los Angeles. It’s perfectly situated to taunt poor Matt Damon, a hardworking but idealistic, little orphan. The rich have the technology to make them ageless and immortal. The poor are left to rot in a festering pit of disease and nuclear waste. It all sounds a little overwrought. But, once Copely shows up on screen, grab a bucket of popcorn! All Matt Damon wants is to deliver his girlfriend’s sick daughter to one of the fancy body-healing machines up on Elysium. And, all Sharlto Copley wants to do is punch Matt Damon in the face. The fact that space-general Jody Foster is paying him to do it is icing on the cake. It’s great! He’s the perfect villain for an action flick. He has no motives for wanting to any of this. He’s just bat-shit crazy and loves to murder! This guy terrifying. And, with the fancy medical machines on his side, he’s practically unstoppable. Little orphan Matt Damon doesn’t stand a chance.
The movie is very heavy-handed. Themes are broad. Characters are archetypal parodies. And, the film doesn’t even bother trying to conceal the clumsy moralizing. But I still left the movie with the impression that I had seen something very exciting. Perhaps it was all the hand-to-hand combat in mechanical combat suits. Maybe it’s the bleak post-apocalyptic setting (and all the tattoos and leather clothing that go along with that). But, who am I kidding? It’s definitely because Sharlto Copley is so transfixing. You can’t take your eyes off him. And, I think it’s his charisma that made this clunky blockbuster into something fun watchable. So, I guess I recommend this movie to you guys—mostly because it was so underestimated during its first run.