crap i have watched recently #22

in heaven everything is fineSPOILERS below, but I’m not sure why anyone would care.

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The World’s End (2013):  Once upon a time Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright made Shaun of the Dead, one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.  It’s also one of the best zombie movies ever:  funny, inventive, and gory.  Brilliant might be too strong a word for it, but only just.  It hit all its marks nearly perfectly as a comedy, as horror, and as satire.  They followed it up with the moderately amusing cop comedy, Hot Fuzz.  All I remember about it is that as it got louder and crazier it also got less funny and seemed to make less of a point.   Now comes The World’s End, the third film in the obscurely named Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy (it has something to do with ice cream).  The premise has promise:  the film follows recovering drug addict Gary King’s attempts to gather together his mates and recreate a fabled pub crawl from the days of their youth.  His mates have all grown up and become responsible adults; Gary himself  not so much.  After some coercion the five set out to hit the twelve pubs along the Golden Mile in their old hometown and for a while we watch the friends get progressively drunker and start to say things they shouldn’t.  Four pubs in they make the unfortunate discovery that most of the people in the town have been replaced by alien robots and from there things head drastically out of control.  Despite the carnage going on all around him Gary is determined to finish the pub crawl and drinks his way grimly toward the last pub, The World’s End.  Once he gets there and taps his last pint the world does in fact end.

This could have been a movie about growing up.  It could have been a movie about finishing what you start, even when years and life intervene.  It could have been a movie about how you really can’t go home again.  Hell, it could have just been a movie about drinking and robot aliens.  But instead it’s a movie about … hell if I know.  It can’t have been intended to be a comedy.  There isn’t a single funny moment in the movie.  As satire it misses almost entirely.  The characters are uninteresting, and that’s saying a lot since three of the five friends are played by Pegg, Frost, and Martin Freeman.   Much like the character he played in Run Fatboy Run, Pegg’s Gary King is just basically unlikeable.  His selfishness and immaturity manage to send the entire world back to the dark ages and even then he doesn’t grow up.  Although it’s half the film the alien invasion plot seems tacked on, as if the writers had a great idea for a movie about a pub crawl but couldn’t come up with anything but middle-aged guys getting drunk and so decided “let’s have an alien invasion!!”  (At least it wasn’t zombies…)  It even manages to give confusedly mixed messages about drinking.  It is entirely possible that the whole thing is just a joke based on the world-ending bar.  I don’t know.  All I do know is that it was loud and boring and I couldn’t wait for it to end.

Score:  Fail

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Elysium (2013):   A hundred and fifty years in the future, give or take, humanity is divided into the haves and the have-nots.  Most of us live on the surface of a polluted, overcrowded, terrorized Earth, living hand to mouth and occasionally being beaten by security forces for no apparent reason.  The obscenely wealthy live in Elysium, a low-orbit space station dedicated to the good life, where mansions are huge and lawns are lush and where no one goes hungry or ages or dies from disease.   Citizens are barcoded to prevent the rabble benefiting from all of Elysium’s marvels, including its magical Med-Bays which can fix whatever ails you just by passing a beam over your body.  The occasional shuttle-load of undocumented aliens that makes it to Elysium’s green fields are rounded up and promptly deported, if they aren’t shot on sight.  Max (Matt Damon), a parolee working in a robotics factory in the ruins of Los Angeles, has always dreamed of living in Elysium.  When he is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation at his job and given five days to live, the desire to get to Elysium and its Med-Bays becomes critical.  In exchange for a shuttle ticket and a fake citizen code, he offers to steal financial data from a corporate bigwig for a smuggler.  The data in the businessman’s head turn out to be something far more important and Max, now fitted with a creepy exoskeleton, finds himself on the run.

I was expecting more from this movie but I was disappointed.   Not because it stars Matt Damon.  I actually like Matt Damon.  Not because the plot is incoherent and seems a bit deja-vu.  Mostly it’s because the man who made this film also made District 9, an unexpectedly compelling blend of anti-apartheid mock-documentary and science fiction.  Elysium wants to run a similar expose of class warfare, mashing science fiction up against social welfare issues into a sort of “Occupy Elysium” vibe.   There’s a lot going on in the background, much of which is an extreme extension of trends already apparent today.   The rich are terrified of the poor and do what the rich always do; they built a wall.  Elysium is the ultimate gated community.  The democratic-ish government is reserved to the citizens of Elysium and only they have anything approaching civil rights.  The security forces aren’t even allowed to arrest them.  On the planet surface people have no rights at all.  Their homes and jobs can be taken from them on a whim.   They have only the poorest of healthcare.  They can be stopped and searched, assaulted, arrested by security forces without cause.   They are dirty, crippled, aged, hopeless.  And above them in the sky, they can always see Elysium shining.

Where District 9 was nuanced and had a tendency to reflect uncomfortably on its viewers, Elysium is a cartoon.  Max and all his scruffy friends are sympathetic characters, just good people making the best of a bad situation (the lovable human cargo smuggler is especially bizarre).  The only bad people on Earth work for Elysium:  the odious owner of the company where Max works, the security guards that shake down citizens while they wait for the bus, the insane mercenary who works for Elysium’s Secretary of Defense (Jodie Foster) and who can shoot space shuttles out of the sky with a hand held rocket launcher.  On the other hand, every single shiny clean person on Elysium is evil, either through overt action or just because they live there.  We are meant to hate them solely because they have more than us and don’t appear to deserve it; they have committed no other crime.   District 9 was powerful because it was basically a small story about an unimportant bureaucrat who has spent his whole life living on the right side of privilege and who suddenly finds himself transforming into “the enemy”.   As he’s forced to rethink every aspect of his existence he comes to understand the evil of apartheid.   The symbolism in that film wasn’t even remotely subtle (ZOMG, the aliens are black people!) but the shift in perspective, the change from “them” to “us” was profound.  There’s no similar journey in Elysium.  “Good” and “Bad” are spelled out for us in bright shiny letters from the get-go and nothing about that ever changes.  We know Max will prevail, all the little poor children will get their medicine, and the smug Elysianites will be served a stone-cold dish of “eat the rich”.   Oh well, low-hanging fruit are always easy to pick I guess.

Score:  Meh.

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~ by gun street girl on February 9, 2014.

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