Elysium (2013)

elysium_1Starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Brandon Auret, Josh Blacker, Emma Tremblay, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Faran Tahir

Directed by Neill Blomkamp

Expectations: Very high.

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I don’t know about you, but I LOVE District 9. Elysium is definitely no District 9, but it’s kind of unfair to even compare them, as Elysium is a much more ambitious film. Due to this, it’s also a more disappointing film because it doesn’t always hit the marks it strives for. At the same time, it features so many great ideas and awesome moments that it would be hard to walk away from Elysium without a smile. If nothing else, it’s got fantastic design work throughout, and the future Earth dystopia/utopia presented in the film is a pretty spot-on extrapolation from the current state of economic inequality in the US.

Elysium is a very simple story at its heart, but it’s also a multilayered story that deals with multiple characters and tells their stories simultaneously until they all converge. The basic kernel is that after Earth became too overpopulated and polluted, the rich people built a space station called Elysium where they could enjoy their money in the peace of space, along with virtually neverending life thanks to their revolutionary med-bays that can identify and cure any ailment. Back on the surface of Earth, Max (Matt Damon) is an orphan who has always dreamed of going to Elysium, and because this is a movie, we enter his life as he’s thrust into a situation that might make that dream a reality.

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Predators (2010)

Starring Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Mahershala Ali, Carey Jones, Brian Steele, Derek Mears

Directed by Nimród Antal

Expectations: Low. I pretty much hated this the first time I saw it.


[Editor’s note: I unapologetically spoil everything about this movie.]

The good news is that now I’m able to enjoy this movie for what it is. The bad news is that I still think it’s kind of boring and not a good Predator movie. I first saw Predators about a year and a half ago and was completely underwhelmed. I specifically chose not to review it, as my feelings were so dark that I decided it was for the best if I kept them to myself. I had heard it lived up to the original Predator, paying homage in subtle ways that took the series back to what made it work in the past. While it is true that this one is set in the jungle, and it features many, many echoes of the original film, it forgets one huge thing that makes Predator great: the hunting… specifically the Predator hunting the humans. It’s also missing the feeling of dread that should be there when a group of people are being hunted by an alien race known for hunting and killing every other race in the universe.

The big reason why there’s no tension in this is that it always feels like Adrien Brody is on the offensive. He never feels like he’s got his back to the wall, as Arnold did when he took a Predator blast and then careened off the waterfall. The final act was a terrifying series of events in which Arnold won through sheer dumb luck and a whole lot of ingenuity. In Adrien Brody’s final confrontation, it feels like he’s the one bringing the Predators to his planet to hunt. It’s no fault of Brody’s, who does a fine job selling himself as a larger-than-life action hero, but it definitely doesn’t make for a compelling Predator movie.

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