Monday 10 March 2014

Films: Elysium (2013) and The Incredible Hulk (2008)

I admired director Neill Blomkamp's 2009 SF film District 9 (reviewed on this blog in September of that year) so was naturally keen to see Elysium. Most of it is set on a dystopian Earth a century hence in which population growth has caused the ruin of the planet's environment, with people living in sordid poverty in shanty-towns. The exception is the very rich, who have created a utopia for themselves on a vast orbital space habitat called Elysium. Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) is one of the poor down on Earth, trying to make ends meet, when he is involved in an accident at work which leaves him with only days to live. He accepts what is virtually a suicide mission so that he can qualify for a trip to Elysium where his life can be saved. Meanwhile, he is hunted by mercenary Kruger (Sharlto Copley) and his crew, who are controlled by Delacourt (Jodi Foster) the Secretary of Elysium, leading to a final showdown on the space habitat.

The style of the film is very reminiscent of District 9, being tough and gritty with a lot of violence and moments of wince-inducing gruesomeness. Matt Damon does his usual expressionless hero stuff, while Sharlto Copley is unrecognisable as the psychopathic mercenary. I usually admire Jodi Foster's acting ability but in this instance I didn't find her particularly convincing. Alice Braga as Da Costa's love interest provides a contrast in mood but otherwise the action is relentless. Having said that, the film is well-constructed and gripping throughout (although I was totally unconvinced by a space habitat with no roof over the atmosphere).  It isn't such a ground-breaking film as Blomkamp's first offering and the basic plot reminded me very much of the 2011 film In Time (also reviewed here). Apart from the obvious differences that In Time is set entirely on Earth and includes the extra factor of people's lives being time-limited, the concept of a hero from the poverty-stricken massses breaking into the secure enclaves where the wealthy live lives of pampered luxury is the same. On reflection, In Time has a more complex and interesting plot and is definitely the one I would choose to watch again. Despite this, Elysium is still worth viewing.


I hadn't seen any version of Hulk / The Incredible Hulk before, but noticed that the 2008 film was on TV with a good write-up so decided to take a look. I'm sure I don't need to use space in explaining the story here, but basically the film has three stages: the first is a lightning-fast infodump explaining the entire backstory is a rapid rush of images; the second covers an interesting period while Banner (Edward Norton) is hiding in Brazil, desperate to maintain his human form; and the third – and by far the longest – is an endless series of chase and especially fight scenes while the Hulk does his stuff, briefly interrupted by interludes with love interest Liv Tyler. I thought it was competently made but superficial, with the constant fighting becoming rather boring. Reading about the Hulk films suggests that maybe Ang Lee's 2003 version would have suited me better, but I can't say I'm interested enough in the story to take the time to see it – a little Hulk goes a long way!

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