Mini movie review Monday - World War Z and Elysium

I’m playing catch-up today with mini reviews of two recent releases that I never got around to reviewing in full when they hit cinemas.

World War Z:
If you go into World War Z expecting a faithful adaptation of author Max Brooks’s instantly classic tale of zombie apocalypse, then you will be disappointed. Marc Forster’s film version is World War Z pretty much in name only, as it zeroes (ha!) in on Brad Pitt’s ex-UN employee as he darts back and forth across the globe, searching for a cure to the pandemic.

Still, for a horror thriller that has a very troubled production, plagued by reshoots and hefty reediting – and the signs of this meddling are very evident in the theatrical release – World War Z delivers the entertainment goods surprisingly well. This is a largely bloodless PG-13 zombie film that nonetheless manages to put viewers continually on the edge of their seats.

The airplane scene and laboratory climax are especially thrilling and it helps that Pitt is such a charismatic actor, keeping the audience invested in his quest despite playing a thinly sketched character. Plus, it’s refreshing to see undead utterly unconcerned with self-preservation for once; not to mention some actual logic applied to handling the outbreak.

A very limp ending and pointless 3D conversion don’t even detract much from the overall enjoyment of this one.

3.5 stars out of 5.


Elysium:
Elysium is the highly anticipated follow-up to writer-director Neill Blomkamp’s smash surprise hit District 9. Also a gritty sci-fi tale with a strong social commentary bent, Elysium presents the world of 2154 as a polluted, over-populated hellhole filled with “have-nots.” The wealthy and powerful “haves” have retreated to space station Elysium, where they live in comfort, splendour and, most importantly, perfect health thanks to advanced Med-Bays that can cure everything from broken bones to terminal cancer.

With nothing left to lose, former car thief Max (Matt Damon) accepts a mission to infiltrate Elysium, opening access to all of Earth’s citizens. Jodie Foster’s ruthless, scheming (and weirdly accented) Secretary of Defence will naturally do everything in her power to prevent this.

The big problem with Elysium really is that it just feels so bland and soulless. Cliched flashbacks to hopeful children do not inject heart into proceedings, and none of the performers seem particularly invested in their one-note characters.

Sharlto Copley at least adds some flavour as deranged soldier Kruger, although South African viewers are likely to enjoy him more than overseas audiences. Still, his presence is a reminder that the film would likely have been more fun if it was more idiosyncratic as a whole.

The action scenes are punchy, and Blomkamp is one director who actually gets shaky-cam right. However, you just never really care. And combined with some too-coincidental moments and strange shifts in motivation (see Kruger in the film’s final Act), the end result is just alright; far short of the flavoursome and far more satisfying District 9.

3 stars out of 5.

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