Director: Neil Blomkamp
Starring: Matt Damon, Sharlto Copley and Jodie Foster
Make it two for two in films by Neil Blomkamp.
It’s been five years since his surprise hit “District 9” and it would appear the South African director has not lost his touch for epic dystopian science fiction about class warfare.
While his second film may not be as smart as its predecessor, “Elysium” is one hell of a fun movie to watch.
The film takes place toward the end of the 21st century where Earth’s richest inhabitants have fled the ruins of an over populated polluted Earth to live on a space station paradise called Elysium.
The remaining poorer population struggle to stay alive in the wreckage of Earth and the wealthy elite of Elysium will stop at nothing to ensure that their way of life is preserved from them.
After a freak accident leaves a former con man named Max De Costa only days to live, he decides he must smuggle his way onto Elysium to get the medicine he needs to cure himself.
However, he soon finds out he is not just fighting to save himself but fighting to find equality for the two polarizing populations of humanity.
“Elysium” is a film that triumphs more off its spectacle than its themes and metaphors.
The movie looks absolutely fantastic in every shape and form and audiences should and will be impressed.
The CGI looks amazing, the green screen feels natural and unforced and the setting of this major dystopian storyline feels hauntingly real.
(This is actually not from the movie, it’s actually just a photo from the LA Times following the last Lakers championship…)
From the ruins of Los Angeles to the decks and paradise of Elysium, Blomkamp and his visual effects crew go all out in this movie and show amazing improvement upon “District 9.”
(Blomkamp maaaay have played some Mass Effect before making this movie. Maaaaay have…)
The action scenes are executed with visceral effectiveness too, feeling more like “Black Hawk Down” than say “The Expendables.”
The film wasn’t without great performances either as Matt Damon does a great job as the film’s hero; Max.
He plays a pretty good wounded warrior with a tough guy past and pulls off the scenes with both touching emotion and charming humor.
The real show stealer though was “District 9” star Sharlto Copley.
The South African actor proves once again he needs to be in more movies as everything he does in this is both fun and memorable.
Copley plays his character, Kruger, with the psychopathic joy and cruel mercilessness needed for a great science fiction villain and it’s fun to watch.
(“Yeah, I got a samurai sword. Yes, there’s cherry blossoms in the background. No, this is not stereotyping!”)
It’s clear from the start Copley enjoys the hell out of his character and his natural charisma and intensity pours out each time he’s on screen.
(Fuck yo car!)
The problem is, while this is a very fun action film to watch, the science fiction part falls a little flat.
Where “District 9” was a little more natural in its execution of its Apartheid themes, “Elysium” tends to hit viewers over the head with its own.
It’s clear from the trailers that the movie is about class warfare but the movie makes the rich people a little too comically evil; shooting down shuttles taking sickly poor children to their healing docks and abusing workers telling them they can’t even “breath on them.”
It’s a little too simple; a nice contrast with a wealthy character who wished for equality would have been good but they didn’t do that.
The clear universal healthcare theme is also quite evident, especially at the end, and no matter where you stand on that subject it once again comes across a little too simply without really giving the theme much depth.
Speaking of the ending, perhaps the worst thing about the movie is its use of “deu ex machine.”
Like the overly simplistic themes, things are tied in a nice convenient bow at the end which is a stark contrast to the open ended dark ending of “District 9.”
The logic of the film doesn’t quite mesh at times and the plot gets muddled and things end up not making sense.
While the film’s fast pace is enjoyable too, it would have been nice if it slowed down a bit to tell more of the backstory of this dystopian future.
Things are done so quickly in the movie that not much time is left to soak in the atmosphere of this universe Blomkamp created.
At the end of the day though, “Elysium” is still fun as hell.
While it might not be the smart science fiction film everyone was expecting after “District 9,””Elysium” is still a very stylish and visceral action film to watch.
While it may seem Blomkamp has work to do in the writing department, his skills in direction and scope are unquestionably great and the film is worth the view on that alone.
His new film may be more brawn than brain but fans of “District 9” should still be pleased with Mr. Blomkamp’s latest venture into the dystopian future.
3.5 out of 5