Writer and director Neill Blomkamp broke onto the scene in 2009 with his surprise hit District 9. His follow up, Elysium, is another massive sci-fi commentary, taking the class separation idea further than the Occupy protests could. Starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley, the story centers around a future where the richest people on Earth flea the planet to the perfect society of Elysium. Watch the trailer after the jump then read my review.
This movie was one of my most anticipated movies of the summer, but I have to say it left me disappointed. While it looks beautiful and it is an interesting idea, the story does not hold up and by the end is a confusing mess of cliches. Blomkamp may have had more creative freedom with this movie after the success of District 9, but that only went so far here.
On the plus side, this movie looks beautiful. The contrast between the cancerous Earth of 2154 with the perfect society on Elysium is very well done. The early scenes on Earth are massive, with buildings falling apart and dust covering everything in a futuristic LA. And Elysium contrasts that in every way, with extra green grass and crystal clear pools. Even the dark underground of Elysium is pretty, with lots of detail and moving parts in the background. With a bigger budget this time around, Blomkamp did not let up when creating this world.
Instead of aliens in this movie, there are robots who perform most jobs humans would. These also look pretty but basically disappear in the third act for some reason, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
The cast also does a good job, especially Damon as the hero Max. This is a character with an attitude but dignity who wants desperately to get off Earth. Damon sells his determination and grit well and looks the part with a shaved head and tattoos. I only wish he would have gotten more fight scenes. He is given some body armour to boost his strength, but hardly uses it to fight, which was very strange.
Jodie Foster is as cold as ever as the evil Delacourt, a government official on Elysium who has other motives. But she isn’t on for nearly enough of the movie and never actually faces off with Damon, even in a shouting match. Foster gives a good performance but doesn’t have much to go off of except the fact that her character kills for fun. Good on her for trying but Foster couldn’t help she was playing a weak character.
Sharlto Copley broke onto the scene in District 9 as the hero, Wikus, and here plays someone the complete opposite. It wouldn’t surprise me if people watching this film don’t recognize him. In Elysium, Copley plays Kruger, a government assassin hired by Delacourt to make sure no Earth people get to Elysium. This includes Damon’s Max. Copely really is the star of the movie with his extremely creepy performance. This character clearly lost his mind long ago and Copely takes him to some crazy places that I really enjoyed. Of the three lead performances, this one stood out.
Alice Braga, Diego Luna and Wagner Moura all play friends of Max to mixed results. The standout of the three is Moura, who’s character Spider was very interesting. William Fichtner also has a small role as a business man and while he is his usual cold self, the performance is so short there wasn’t much to it.
All of the above sounds good, but the story is so bad I am going to take a couple stars off for it. While the initial idea of separating class this way is original in the way sci-fi should be, but the actual plot of the movie is not. It becomes the story of one man trying to stay alive while he is being chased because he stole some information. Every plot beat is predictable, the ending resolves everything and the scale of this event is not clear.
It blows my mind that this event could be contained to just LA and to just Max. A project like Elysium would be a global effort but the world outside of LA is never mentioned, even as the film wraps up.
In the end, I left Elysium feeling disappointed. While it is a big action movie, I expected more from Blomkamp. The story really hindered this beautiful world and I hope he is more creative with his next script.