Thursday, August 22, 2013

Elysium

Neill Blomkamp's films are beginning to fall into a predictable pattern: 1. A fantastic opening act full of exciting philosophical and visual ideas. 2. A second act where the grinding story wheels begin to wear you down and stretch your patience. 3. A third act that's just as dull and tedious as every other Hollywood action movie from the last twenty five years. Why is it that every young director gets bullied or cajoled by movie executives and script doctors into having their lead goodie and the lead baddie get into a fist fight at the very end of the film? Don't they know that everyone over the age of 15 hates these final confrontations? They are beyond tedious and yet we see them again in every James Bond or Batman movie or any other actioner. We hate them. We all hate them. Only teenage boys with testosterone and sugar and Coke giving them the fist punching jitters are capable of liking these denouements. 
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Neill Blomkamp is an intelligent guy with a sharp sense of humour and an overdeveloped sense of allegory but his career in the movies is already heading down that path beat by Christopher Nolan. Now I know a lot of will think that that's a good thing but you're wrong. Christopher Nolan has become a hack. A stylish hack but a hack nonetheless. He's made two philosophically rich and intelligent films: The Prestige and Memento and a whole bunch of other hacky action films. Yeah I know a lot of you thought Inception was a smart film but it wasn't. Inception is a smart film for dummies. If Inception had been a clever film about dreams it wouldn't have been an action movie within an action movie within an action movie it would have been closer to what adults really dream about most of the time: sex. (A French  director should remake Inception as an erotic thriller within an erotic thriller within an erotic thriller.) 
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To make matters worse for Blomkamp both of his feature films so far have been hits so he's going to get surrounded by yes men and unctuous studio types who'll keep pushing him (like they pushed Nolan) to make films for bright 13 year olds who'll be able to tell their friends in the playground that District 9 was really about apartheid and Elysium was really about Obamacare. Success seems to destroy all artists in the end unless they have a very strong will. But it is possible to hold out against the man. Stewart Lee, Werner Herzog, Crispin Glover, David Lynch, and Louis CK prove that you can hit the big time in TV and the movies and still hold onto your artistic integrity. I hope for his sake that Neill Blomkamp's next film is either a total bomb or such a huge hit that he never has to worry about money again and can ignore the executives pushing him towards these bone crunchingly dull Hollywood endings.