Film Review: Elysium

elysiumCary, NC – Elysium is director Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to his fantastic debut film, District 9. Unfortunately, Elysium doesn’t live up to the same high mark.

Elysium: No District 9

Like any great science fiction film, District 9 was filled to the brim with social commentary and ideas regarding segregation and class separation just to name a few, while also delivering exciting action and great characterizations both real and computer generated.

While Elysium deals with many of the same issues with a much bigger budget and more star power in the likes of Matt Damon, the movie struggles to hit the highs of Blomkamp’s previous film and fails to create any emotional connection between its characters and the audience.

Damon is Good, the Film However…

As I said, Matt Damon anchors the film as Max, a former ex-con who gets exposed to a lethal dose of radiation and must find a way to break onto Elysium, an elite space station orbiting the earth where only the wealthy and privileged reside. Oh, and any injury and disease can be cured there within seconds.

It’s actually a really cool premise, and Matt Damon is very good as a desperate man put in a very desperate situation. The problem though is that director/writer Blomkamp never gives the audience a chance to take everything in. Damon’s character, Max, only has 5 days to get to Elysium, and Blomkamp never lets up for a second, forcing the movie forward at a break-neck pace. And I get why.

It’s a move that’s supposed to force the audience into the same panic that Damon is experiencing, and as an idea I really like that. However, the move backfires, never giving the audience to get to know Max, even a little bit and thus never giving us much of a reason to care about his outcome.

A Good Villain

There are still a lot of things about Elysium that are quite impressive though, such as the unhinged performance of Sharlto Copley, whom you might remember as the lead in District 9.

In that film, Copley played a character that was slightly pathetic and mostly likable, and it was a really impressive performance. Here he is the polar opposite, playing a purely evil and maniacal Elysium agent who will do anything at any cost to stop Damon from reaching the space station.

It’s a villainous performance for the ages honestly, as Copley brings a very dark sense of humor and menace to the proceedings.

Impressive Effects

Director Blomkamp has also proved himself to be an expert user of special effects, and Elysium certainly helps solidify this fact.

The film is beautiful to look at, honestly. Every spaceship and robot looked completely real, adding to the impressive “lived in” world that Blompkamp has created.

It’s just a shame he couldn’t have given his script and characters as much attention to detail. A wasted opportunity. Save yourself the price of admission. Overall, Elysium is a frustrating experience.

Technically, it’s a marvel of special effects and world building surrounded by solid performances from almost everyone involved. And most importantly there are ideas to be explored at the heart of the film, a trait any good science fiction story should have. Unfortunately, writer/director Blomkamp forgot to actually explore those ideas and instead just made a pretty decent chase film that just happens to take place in a science fiction environment. A true shame.

So, I say save your money and stay home and for those who are really curious at least wait for DVD.


Review by Jordan Hunt for CaryCitizen. Read more CaryCitizen Movie Reviews.