Elysium (2013)

Elysium (2013) star-full1.jpgstar-full1.jpgstar-half1.jpgstar-no1.jpgstar-no1.jpg

With District 9, Neill Blomkamp offered a social commentary on racism and post-apartheid South Africa. The film was very well received and that’s why there has been so much hype for Elysium. Taken in isolation, Elysium isn’t that terrible of a movie (despite its many shortcomings), but when compared to District 9, it just looks so much worse.

Even though the filming of Elysium started before the Occupy Wall Street movement, there are some clear parallels to the concept of the 99% vs. the 1%. The huddled masses eke out an existence in the slums of Earth while the wealthy elite maintain their lifestyle in a hovering space station called Elysium. There’s a clear separation, both figuratively and physically, between the rich and the poor. It’s also interesting that the majority of Elysium citizens are white, whereas the majority of Earthlings are not. In any case, the movie seems to present an interesting concept, but the execution leaves something to be desired.

The main protagonist, played by Matt Damon, is a reformed criminal working in a factory when he gets exposed to deadly radiation. He has just five days to live, so he desperately tries to make his way to Elysium to access one of their magical healing machines. The problem is that we don’t really sympathize or identify with him like how we did with Jason Bourne. He’s just some guy and a bit of a dope at that. Jodie Foster’s strange accent is distracting, the addition of the exo-skeleton doesn’t make a lot of sense, and the plot is just filled with holes. Why, for instance, are the medical robots using tablets to gather medical information when they are supposed to be linked to the central system anyway?

I wanted to like Elysium, but it ultimately comes up short.

Pacific Rim (2013)

Pacific Rim (2013) star-full1.jpgstar-full1.jpgstar-full1.jpgstar-no1.jpgstar-no1.jpg

Here’s another concept that sounds terribly entertaining on paper. Some giant Godzilla-like monsters are invading the Earth and us lowly humans have banded together to manufacture some giant robots to fight off these beastly threats. The giant robots each need two pilots, who merge their brains through the “drift,” You can tell that they’re trying really hard to make this movie feel as epic as possible.

Part of the trouble is that it feels like they are trying to cram every cliche, every perceivable archetype into this movie. You have the pretty boy army guy with a troubled past, another pretty boy army guy rival with a chip on his shoulder, the stoic commander with seemingly no human connections, and the smart Asian girl with something to prove. They even have the scene where a hero emerges from one of the bots with the sun behind him, casting a heroic halo as his face is slowly revealed from the shadows. It also doesn’t help that all the monsters are kind of generic.

And why is it always dark and raining whenever there’s a battle? It makes it harder to see what’s really happening, not unlike many of the twisted metal fight scenes in the Transformers movies. Pacific Rim is a fun romp, don’t get me wrong, but it is very cliche and ultimately very predictable.

The Wolverine (2013)

The Wolverine (2013) star-full1.jpgstar-full1.jpgstar-full1.jpgstar-no1.jpgstar-no1.jpg

If you count next year’s Days of Future Past, Hugh Jackman would have played this claw-wielding mutant in seven movies. Seven! And even though we tried to explore more of his back story in X-Men Origins (it wasn’t very good), we’re doing it again here… except it takes place after the X-Men trilogy.

When I first heard that The Wolverine was going to take us to Japan, I assumed that it would be more of a history with Yuriko. The problem is that Lady Deathstrike died in the trilogy. Instead, what we get is more of a story with Mariko, Yukio and some strange version of Silver Samurai. I’m far from being a comic book expert, but in doing a little research afterward, I learned that this movie veers far off from canon. Let’s just say some ronin are made of a different mettle.

This film is a definite improvement over Origins, but it felt more like “here’s a bunch of stuff that happened” rather than a cohesive story that adds to the grander X-Men universe. The mid-credits bonus scene is worth watching, though.