Elysium, R.I.P.D., Gravity
It happened over one weekend. Actually, it was within a twenty-four hour period that I watched these movies - three movies that will forever be etched on my brain as nothing more than a complete waste of my time and effort.
Ok, let's start with the first shitty-arsed puppy that wandered into my DVD player and took a dump.
How anyone can make a film in which your direction stops any sense of performance from the likes of Matt Damon and Jodie Foster is simply beyond me. In a similar vein, I struggle to understand how the same person who wrote and directed the intergalactic, funny racism fest District 9 (which is well worth a watch if you haven't already), can also produce such a spiteful, pox-ridden 109 minutes of shit-awful cinema. It seems Neill Blomkamp leads the way in both, and clearly had a few bills to pay by making Elysium.
It's awful, and in so many ways. The premise is one that is so well trodden it recently had new carpet laid. Earth has gone to shit, all the sexy, rich people have built a new Earth (which is a Halo-type thing called Elysium and is really shiny and stuff), one man who lives on shit Earth but wants to be on Halo Earth makes a stand for reasons that I'm now too fucking bored to explain. Seriously, that's the movie.
The special effects may be very cool (as were those used in any episode of Heroes - and look how that turned out!), but the story and characters are just poor and trite. Why is it that "bad" Earth always looks so dusty and beige? Also, why is it that the better place has to be made of titanium and LED's? Why is it that the main baddie always relies on a single, unstable, counterpart to execute their diabolical plans? Can we not come up with something a little different?
Speaking of different, let's look at the main players. You have Matt Damon's character that is fuelled by his own self-preservation for most of the film, until he has a heart-felt moment of realization that leads to perhaps the most obvious and predictable self-sacrifice I've ever seen. Jodie Foster plays a female Dick Cheney and employs a voice that is almost impossible to place, and hilarious to listen too, and then there's Sharlto Copley - everyone's favourite weirdo - his character is perhaps the worst of the three, and again suffers from the same vocal bullshit as Foster. Seriously, the South African accent is staggeringly poxy at the best of times, and offers nothing in the way of being either sinister or dangerous - it's just annoying. Why not get a little British on that thing; as we all know a good Brit accent is the scariest when it comes to portraying a messed-up, yet strangely intelligent, psychotic. As the villain of the piece, you would think he would run with it (as the guy is clearly a gifted actor), but no, and by whoever's design he keeps it one-dimensional and similar to those baddies you get on an episode of Ultimate Force!
Predictable, jarring, and stupid - avoid Elysium like it's a UKIP representative.
With a similar waft of shit, I then went on to watch R.I.P.D. and was once more utterly spellbind by the quality of dreck it offered.
Only marginally better than Elysium, it suffered so many of the same problems. With a story that was nothing more than a reworking of The Frighteners, or Rentaghost, this movie deals with an alternate, spectral, universe that us mortals are unaware of but exists in the same space as it were. This realm is maintained by a police force, much like our own, and is made up of dead cops (which is very cost effective vis-à-vis training and staff development). Once more, a baddie wants to mess around with the mortal world and hatches a cunning plan to do whatever he does to achieve whatever it is he… sorry, I'm bored writing this.
We again have some reasonable special effects (think Men-in-Black, rather than The Hobbit), and a stable of thoroughbred acting talent in Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon and Mary Louise-Parker who all manage to make the most of some pretty awful dialogue the team of writers came up with (6 in total!).
The director on this one, Robert Schwentke, tries his best to tame the gaggle of voices that clearly marred the script, but fails to find any consistency with either the universe or the characters. However, the saving grace this film has is an overriding sense of never taking itself too seriously. Again, this has a faint smell of Men in Black, but offers the movie a much frayed lifeline away from complete oblivion.
With this said, and if I was going to watch any of these movies again (and I won't be), I would plumb for R.I.P.D. Jeff Bridges is always worth a watch and never fails to provide a little something in the way of performance, and Mary Louise-Parker is also good value for money but for very different reasons… va-va-voom!
And so we come to the point where I enter the marginalised world of those who fucking hated Gravity, and thought it was stupid and idiotic in every conceivable way - and a few that haven't been conceived yet… that's how inconceivable the stupidity of this movie is.
If I had a penny for every time someone has told me how great this movie is, well, I would only have about 38p, but it would still represent a lot of people who loved this film - I'm just not sure why.
Was it because of the visuals? Well, they were certainly nice to look at and gave an awesome sense of how important we are down here, but so hopelessly unimportant up there in the galactic wilderness. Maybe it was The Clooney and Sandra Bullock? George and Sandy (to a degree) do give a nice performance, but nothing that would get you teetering on your seat and clawing at your partner in tense frenzy. Special effects? Again, they were nice, well-crafted and unremarkably typical of so many films that have come before it (Sunshine, Armageddon, Serenity, etc., etc.) So what else?
It may have been how the movie pretended to give a visceral and realistic representation of a catastrophic accident in space, but pretty much ignored all aspects of physics whenever the plot needed it too - I particularly liked the way in which a place that is known to not have any gravity, suddenly gets a dose of gravity in order to provide a sentimental moment (exactly why couldn't Sandra hold on to George??). I also liked how the two astronauts this film focuses on, who you could assume have spent a significant amount of time together in training for their mission, seemed to know absolutely nothing about each other. Is that realistic - and is it what the director, Alfonso Cuarón, is going for? Is it even remotely plausible? Or is it another loophole taken in order to flesh out the plot? Shit, even the guys in Deep Impact shared a beer and spent time getting to know each other before they took to the skies.
And no matter how hard I tried, I could not get close to Sandra Bullock's character. How the fuck can you have a half-hearted astronaut? Everything about her felt like a student working in Blockbusters, when in fact they really wanted to get back to campus and do something they actually enjoyed. The first five minutes where you watch her try to repair a satellite, moan about not getting it done and huffing and puffing about how difficult and time consuming it is, made me fucking pray for the accident to come and kill her! Do NASA really employ 14 year-old, whiney, obnoxious, emo car mechanics to fix their space shit? I'm no expert… but I'm guessing they don't - so fuck off back to Twilight!
I could go on but I'm starting to bore myself again; and quite frankly, this film stank out my living room so much I actually started to realise how fucking good Elysium was!
Anyway, with the end credits of Gravity, my weekend of sci-fi ended with the resounding roar of an Airbus 777, carrying sick babies from Africa, plunge into a special needs school as it was being visited by the entire Royal family. It was fucking monstrous, grotesque to the extreme and wholly implausible. And if this is the state of current sci-fi, then we shouldn't be surprised by the countless comic book movies appropriating the genre.
Thank fuck for television… and its repeats of Star Trek, X-Files and Firefly!
Paul Millard 2014