Neill Blomkamp would be no body today without having made District 9 in 2009. The sci-fi mockumentary turned action film was a refreshing original film in the midst of all the other rehashes, franchises, and reboot. It was fun story that turned more tragic toward the end, with lessons to be learned by the characters and stark political comparison’s to society. Sadly, his second big budget film, Elysium, is a watered down mess that focuses on unbelievable technology, instead of innovation and humanity.
It is hard to believe that Good Will Hunting actor Matt Damon has come into the action scene so easily, and he is by far the best part of this movie. His character, a reformed convict who works in a robot factory, is inflicted with radiation (not turning him into the Hulk, sadly), but rather driving him to get to Elysium, a haven for rich people in the skies, with technology to heal all ailments.
Damon brings seriousness to the role and a viciousness that made me feel for the character. He only wants to be healthy again and does anything to get it. He gets some good quips and one-liners in the film but tends to be weighted down by the convoluted rules and world in which the film takes place. Even when he is strapped into an exoskeleton for most of the movie (why do they even exist? Who needs these or even uses them?), he embodies the distress and need to get to Elysium more than anyone else in the film.
Jodie Foster was absolutely wasted as the defense secretary on Elysium. Her only job seems to be preventing random ships from landing in the sphere, which she sucks at. At time her knowledge of the situations at hand or ability to maneuver things in that (separate) government is too hard to believe. Even I can’t suspend that much disbelief for her character. As for her acting, however, she was truly a menacing presence and embodied the twisted character she was there to portray.
Sharlto Copely was on full blast, playing something we’ve never seen before. Instead of a bumbling manager of alien affairs in D9 and the interesting mechanic of the A-Team, we see a near psychotic secret agent / mercenary that seems to be outfitted with some odd cybernetics. His intentions are clear in the beginning but we soon lose any track of what he is thinking later on the film, due to a shocking incident that befalls him I assume. The third act of the film focuses on his conflict with Matt Damon’s character and is devoid of any and all actual purpose. I’m unsure why took certain actions later in the film and because of this, lost interest in his character as well.
Earth and Elysium at this point in time have existed side by side for several years. There is no talk of how it was built or why they have re-atomizing technology, stuff that can heal anyone afflicted by anything, even those who took a grenade to the face. We are not told how this came to exist or why it only resides on the space station. The robot police and enforcers are also a really cool idea, as Damon’s character is one of the builders, but they were under utilized, instead focusing on sleeper agents, Kruger and his cronies.
The Elysium structure (and all of Blomkamp’s theatrical pieces) owes everything to Halo (and Gundam Wing too). Space colonies and insurrectionists aren’t anything new, but the visuals are almost taken directly from other well-known works. The over crowded, futuristic look of California happens to look identical to South Africa of District 9. Almost exactly too, with the scrap metal, bland landscape, and overt poverty.
By the end of the film, only one character has truly gone through an arc, while no one else learned anything. The film ends on a semi-happy ending, but causes more questions than answers. Why can’t citizens of Elysium be arrested, especially if they’re in data sensitive areas or broken many (supposed) laws along the way. Also why are the citizens of Earth under Elysium’s radars? The film gives too many solutions to problems that were not addressed earlier in the film.
The visuals in this film are one of the few redeeming factors. The police robots are all believable and move around with such fluidity that had me entranced anytime they were on screen. Elysium as an inhabitable space object was also a spectacle to behold, despite how reminiscent to colonies from the Gundam Wing anime series it is. There are several in film shots in particular that had me thinking and impressed with camera usage and perspective, again, on of the few moments worth watching.
All in all, this movie is one that is suitable for a Redbox rental, if not a TV film. It is forgettable due to all the forced political points forced down your throat, while not presenting anything new or creative along the way. Blomkamp needs to take his talent to the next level or will always be remembered for his one note films.
Elysium – 2.5 / 5