“District 9” director Neill Blomkamp returns with another offering about class warfare and societal segregation, “Elysium”. Only this time, his film is not quite as subtle in its themes, nor as interesting a story.

A century from now, Earth stands environmentally depleted and grossly overpopulated. The wealthy elite have abandoned the planet and live instead in an orbiting space station known as Elysium. Elysium is a lush paradise with advanced technology capable of meeting every need, including advanced medical technology capable of healing even the most severe injury or illness. As such, the residents of Elysium not only reside in paradise, they live long, healthy lives.

Below, on Earth, conditions are far less hospitable. People live in squalor, patrolled by robotic policemen, forced to work in brutal conditions in the factories of the cities. When a laborer named Max (Matt Damon) is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation at work, he’s forced to try to find a way up to Elysium in order to cure himself. He turns to an underworld friend who sends people (on what are practically suicide missions) to try to fly into Elysium. It’s there that Max gets equipped with a robotic exo-skeleton that will allow him the strength to continue his mission, in spite of the weakness that comes with the sickness he’s suffering.

Elysium is having a bit of trouble in paradise, however. The Secretary of Defense (Jodie Foster) is growing frustrated with the President’s humanistic policies regarding protecting the satellite. In an effort to circumvent his restrictions, she deals with a black ops specialist (Sharlto Copley), off the books. When Max and his crew hijack a wealthy citizen for his Elysium access codes as part of their mission to gain access to the space station, it’s this off the books, no holds barred soldier that they run across.

Other events complicate the picture as well. One of Max’s old girlfriends wants him to take her dying daughter with him to Elysium so she can be cured also. And the citizen that they hijack for his codes is carrying encrypted data crucial to the security of Elysium.

Will the dying Max be able to penetrate the orbiting haven and save himself, in spite of everything standing in his way?

Elysium is a visually impressive film with lots of stunning VFX shots, especially the action sequences and all of the different styles of weaponry they put on display (reminiscent of “District 9”). Damon is great, of course, as the battered, exhausted Max. Unfortunately, there’s really not much else to rave about. Sharlto Copley is more than a little overbearing with his loud, psychopathic, super-heavily accented villain. Foster plays a rigid, power hungry ice queen… its not her fault, she wasn’t given a well fleshed out character, but she’s not in the film much anyways.

Blomkamp bears much of the burden. “Elysium” is a little too in love with itself… it’s burdened with lots of slo mo, flashbacks, and “epic” scoring. At times, it comes across as cool, especially early, but by the end it wore on me and eventually felt ponderous. There’s also little to no subtlety involved with the parallels between the events of the film and social issues such as the “1%”, universal health care and immigration. Not that the heavy handedness of it was overbearing, per se, it’s just that a deft hand might have been able to turn this material into an action film with thought provoking elements. Instead, we get an action film that incorporates current social problems in a way that’s straightforward and rather plain.

Elysium is worth checking out for some of the spectacle, and it is still a decent enough sci-fi action film, but I can’t help but feel let down by how run of the mill it wound up feeling to me.



43 thoughts on “Elysium

  1. Good review brotha. Granted, it’s not as thought-provoking or sly with what it’s trying to say, as District 9 was, but it’s still a thrill-ride for a good part of it’s run-time. Still, can somebody please tell me what accent Jodie Foster was doing? Or what she was SUPPOSED to be doing?

  2. My biggest problem was with the accents. There were times I had great difficulty understanding what people were saying. Also, I was getting a headache from the very shaky camera work. I liked the film but didn’t love it.

    • Sharlto Copley’s accent was out of control. I’m betting that’s just his natural accent, and not some affectation? Still… it was really really rough on the ears. Tough to understand at times, like you said. 😦

  3. Been reading a lot of “not as good as it could have been” reviews on this one, Fogs…. a shame, considering where Blomkamp came from with District 9. I’m still gonna see it eventually, but I’m keeping my expectations suitably in check!!

      • That was pre-blog, apparently, Rodney. Not sure I’ll ever circle back to it, now, sorry to say. 😦 Great flick though, definitely a great debut effort by Blomkamp.

        As to Elysium, keeping your expectations in check is a sound course of action! 😉

  4. I thought about going to it tomorrow, today I finally managed to get to the Conjuring. My overal impression, from the trailer, was that this was a modern version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

    • Yeah, I can see why you’d say that. Nice. Unfortunately, this has nowhere near the quality of that. LOL This one will be forgotten shortly after its out of theatres, it pretty much stands no chance of being remembered 100 years from now, like Metropolis. 😮

  5. Yup, definitely agree it was pretty run of the mill. I was underwhelmed, but eh, I’ve kinda come to expect that by most movies this year. 😦

  6. Yea Fogs’ I pretty much agree with you that the story was the problem with this film. I felt like Blomkamp went the big action Blockbuster route than making it more dramatic and thought provoking as he did in District 9. All in all I still really enjoyed the film especially the sci-fi aspect. Good stuff.

    • Exactly. There just wasn’t much to it aside from “I have to get up to Elysium to save my life”. All the other stuff felt tacked on. The girl, the security codes… it was all pretty unnecessary. 😦

  7. Hi, Fogs:

    Doesn’t anyone in Hollywood know and understand that Brits have the lock on Villains, Frigid Bitches; their voices, attire and effete, meticulous mannerism?!!!

    Alan Rickman leaps to mind on he male side. While Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Blunt and Rhona Mitra (‘Doomsday’, ‘Strike Back’) could more than cover the female.

    Damon’s take on a junkyard ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ prototype cyborg was kind of interesting. In a film that needed just a bit more to be great.

    • Yeah, it was definitely lacking something. I think I would have much preferred a British substitution for Copley… his accent was unintelligible at times, it was pretty harsh on the ears 8O.

      Damon is pretty good in everything he does. I don’t think I’ve ever wound up faulting him for a failure of one of his films… this is no exception.

  8. Silly Elysians! Don’t they know that if some low level guy gets access to all your secrets, that you’re supposed to make him sit in a Moscow airport?

    I agree with pretty much everything you said. Not a bad film per se, just forgettable. And here I had spent most of the summer thinking that this would be the one to unite the sci-fi fans and the prestige lovers. Luckily, we’ve still got Gravity to look forward to in October!

    • Ha! Yeah! Take a lesson from the NSA! LOL

      I hope Gravity delivers, I really do. Somehow I always had a feeling that this would be a let down though. The trailers never did anything for me, and the late summer release date didn’t inspire confidence… Too bad I wound up being right. 😦

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  11. I’m really hoping to catch this soon. Lot of people saying it’s a let-down in terms of what it “could have been” but is still entertaining. Thanks Fogs!

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  14. We’re generally in agreement here Fogs! “Elysium is a little too in love with itself” – yep, and I feel that sometimes Blomkamp might’ve gotten a bit complacent w/ the Hollywood backing and thus the message gets diluted, preferring the more ‘feel good’ ending that caters to the masses.

    • I guess there’s some “feel good” to that ending. I’m not sure Damon’s character felt too good, lol, but I guess the rest of the world did. The bigger budget definitely might have gone to Blomkamp’s head though, I think the movie had a shot of being a lot better if he hadn’t been showing off the VFX and whatnot so much. 😦

  15. I really dug this one, actually. While I’ll definitely agree with “Elysium is a little too in love with itself,” and “a deft hand might have been able to turn this material into an action film with thought provoking elements” I managed to skirt around the weaknesses with little to no problem. I don’t know why. I think it’s because the film perpetually reminded me of District 9. It’s nowhere near as good, true, but I left with more assurance in Blomkamps’ capabilities. As far as the acting job is concerned, Elysium left a lot to be desired. I was more offended by Foster than I was Copley’s. Great review, though man.

  16. While it wasn’t as thought provoking or mind-blowing as I’d liked, it was still a welcome change from the usual Hollywood suspects. great visuals and fx, I enjoyed it for the action film it was, not the social commentary it’s reported to champion.
    Didn’t have any issues with accents, Foster was French, Sharlto was SA, heavy accented, yes, but with a multitude of friends from all over the world, inc. France and SA I suppose I’m used to it
    Will look forward to seeing it again.
    For all the comparisons with D9, I didn’t get that, I got Monsters ( the post Alien creature invasion, low budget Mexican set movie.)

    • I think all the D9 comparisons are due to the fact that he directed both…

      Meanwhile, I just had a problem with Copley’s accent, it was really super thick. And when you combine it with “over the top”, sometimes that equals unintelligible. 😦

      Glad you enjoyed it though Nik. I agree I don’t think it worked that well as a social commentary piece. 😉

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