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Good 'Elysium' falls short

  • (Kimberley French / TriStar Pictures)

Of all the movie villains we've met lately, few are stranger than Delacourt, Jodie Foster's evil, white-blonde, power-suited and power-hungry defense official in “Elysium,” the much-awaited but ultimately somewhat disappointing new film from director Neill Blomkamp.

From her command post on a ritzy space station high up above 22nd-century Earth, a demitasse of espresso at her side, Delacourt doles out orders in a foreign but unrecognizable accent. “Send them to deportation!” she barks, when “undocumented” ships breach her borders. “Get them off this habitat!”

Blomkamp, whose sci-fi parable “District 9” came out of nowhere four years ago to earn a best-picture Oscar nod, is crystal clear in his intentions here. He's making obvious statements about immigration and universal health care, and whether the frequent references bother you or not will greatly influence how much you enjoy the film.

One thing you can't deny, though, is its visual beauty, and, as in “District 9,” his masterful use of special effects. It's not for nothing that Blomkamp, at the tender age of 33, has been called a visionary artist of the genre.

His “Elysium” — that space station in the sky, looking a lot like present-day Easthampton — is an enormous wheel, on the rim of which its wealthy residents, having left the teeming and polluted Earth, inhabit pristine white homes with bright green manicured lawns. Brilliant sunlight dapples the blue waters of their swimming pools. Classical music and clinking glasses echo in the background. For some reason, people seem to speak French.

Most importantly, Elysium's inhabitants are eternally healthy, because each home holds a “healing bay,” which looks like a tanning machine, except it cures all illness.

Down on Earth, things are different. Los Angeles in 2154 is grimy, gritty and poor, with minimal medical care. Children look longingly to the sky, dreaming of Elysium. In a flashback, Max, a young boy in an orphanage, promises a young girl named Frey that one day, they'll go there together.

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