Elysium (2013)

elysium IMDb

Elysium almost feels like a spin off of Neill Blomkamp’s first movie, the fantastic District 9. Both movies feel as though they are set in the same universe, Blomkamp definitely has a visual style all his own that makes both films seem connected. As with District 9, Elysium also attacks real world issues that are relevant today. District 9 was an entertaining commentary on racism and apartheid, while Elysium attacks the current class structure that exists in first world countries. The interesting thing about these films is that they make their point without shoving it down your throat. I feel like upper class tossers would watch this film and be rooting for Matt Damon’s character without even realising he is fighting against everything they love about life.

Elysium is a science fiction film set in the year 2154. Earth has become a wasteland where the lower class have to live in slums to survive, while the wealthy have built a large space station to live on called Elysium. Elysium is just outside of Earth’s atmosphere and its residents have access to the best medical treatment and lavish lifestyles available. Nearly all of their resources are brought to them by the struggling citizens who remain on Earth. One of these citizens, Max (Damon), is on parole and works in a factory. Due to an accident at work, Max ends up getting exposed to a large amount of radiation, giving him only a few days to live. He is determined to reach Elysium and get the medical treatment he needs to save his life. The Elysium defence secretary, Delacourt (Jodie Foster), is tasked with keeping the ‘riff raff’ out of Elysium and must keep Max out of her space station. She is also planning a coup to take over Elysium. When Max discovers her plans he suddenly has leverage over Delacourt and her minions, but can he use it to save his life and the lives of his friends.

I really enjoy Blomkamp’s work. I loved District 9 and Elysium is nearly as good. I really like how Blomkamp is able to get his message across without being too obvious about it. He clearly has problems with the way current society is being run and this is his way to bringing his views to the general public. There is a message in this film about class structures in today’s world, but it is also a very cool movie. I love some of the futuristic weapons that are used, Blomkamp’s muse Sharlto Copley turns up as one of Delacourt’s thugs and he has an assortment of cool futuristic weapons he uses. There is also a cool scene where his face is put back together after being blown off halfway through the film. Halfway through the film, Damon also gets an exoskeleton attached to his body that makes him stronger and able to download data into his brain. Some of these concepts are just so cool. I am really excited to see what Blomkamp does next. I’m still hoping for that District 9 sequel, but I’m not holding my breath.

Elysium is a gritty adult science fiction action flick and a solid follow up to Blomkamp’s first film, District 9. He is fast becoming one of my favourite sci-fi directors.

Rating: B

I like Elysium, but the more I think about it the more ridiculous it seems. The movie itself is gorgeously filmed, and the CGI effects are particularly well done. But the plot… it has potential, but somehow fails to deliver on any of the deeper commentary that is promised.

In the distant-ish future (2154), the Earth is polluted and overpopulated. The wealthiest members of society now reside in the space habitat Elysium, where they have technologically advanced “Med-Bays” in their homes that can apparently cure all types of disease and infirmity (including having your head almost entirely blown off). Desperate people on Earth pay for illegal rides to Elysium, where they make mad dashes to the closest home in order to use a Med-Bay before being deported home.

This is the point at which the movie loses me. I understand that director Neill Blomkamp is trying to make broader points about the haves vs the have nots, immigration, and overpopulation, but this plot seems too unbelievable to function as real commentary on contemporary society. It just makes no sense that the citizens of Elysium are all that incredibly uncaring and oblivious to Earth’s suffering. What is the point of hoarding all the Med-Bays? At the end of the film it is revealed that Elysium has shuttles full of Med-Bays just sitting in a hanger unused. Wouldn’t it be beneficial to dispatch these to Earth sooner in order to stave off wave after wave of illegal immigrants who are obviously only coming for the medical treatment? They don’t have to be altruistic about it– I’m sure those on Earth would rather pay their life savings to actually use a Med-Bay, than risk their money and lives just for a chance at using one.

I do think Blomkamp makes some of his points convincingly, though. The few on Elysium rely on the resources and labor of the many on Earth, but appear to invest very little back into the planet or its people. Individual workers are viewed as expendable, working hard for low wages and kicked to the curb the moment they might cost the company money. These aspects felt real to me, and I wish they had been explored more.

Overall, Elysium is a good science fiction film, I just wish it were great. I enjoy that Blomkamp has stuck to his guns and followed up District 9 with another R-rated movie, but I think my expectations were too high after his exceptional debut. The story was weak in places, and the characters were too one dimensional (I will say that the actors all do an excellent job despite this.). Still, I look forward to what Blomkamp will do next.

Rating: C+

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