In 2009, some guy named Neill Blomkamp came out of nowhere to bring moviegoers one of the most original, surprisingly good sci-fi films in recent memory, District 9. The movie went on to not only be a critically approved box office success but also nab an Oscar nomination for Best Picture
This past weekend, Blomkamp's eagerly anticipated follow up, Elysium, hit theaters nationwide.
Elysium tells the story of a distopian type world set in 2154. Earth has, as so many films this year seem to have depicted, degenerated into a wasteland that is livable but not enjoyably so. Any person fortunate or wealthy enough has left earth to live on Elysium, a man-made space station that serves as a utopian habitat. Every person lives in a lush, climate controlled environment, and each home has a medical unit that literally heals all injuries and diseases. Elysium is on strict lock down, however, so only the highest class folks are allowed to live there.
Max, played by the always solid Matt Damon, is an earth dweller who dreams of being able to leave his mundane factory job and go to Elysium. He has few friends and is labeled a troublemaker by most people who know him, including the local authorities. When Max is given the chance to fight back against the societal injustice his world has become, the ability to save every person on earth rests in his hands.
Sound good to you? District 9 was one of my favorite movies of its year, leaving Elysium as one of my most-anticpated of this summer.
From start to finish, Blomkamp is certainly gifted at crafting a fully realized, not to mention believable, future reality that grabs your attention from the first incredible shot of the spinning Elysium landscape.
The action is intense, often violent, and never disorienting. The special effects are top notch and well done.
My issues with the movie are as follows:
- It was a bit on the short side (roughly 1 hour 40 minutes), and I think having about 20 more minutes to develop a couple characters / plot lines could have helped strengthen the script.
- A lot of the story seemed very formulaic for as creative a filmmaker as Blomkamp. A lot of this is, fortunately, overshadowed by the very fact that his futuristic earth/Elysium settings are so original in the first place.
- The film certainly has a political agenda. This is not something that I was bothered by upon watching it, but it certainly doesn't shy away from themes of socialism and class warfare. This could easily deter some viewers.
- Jodie Foster, who plays the corrupt chief of defense of Elysium, was pretty shallow and quite annoying. Whether this is Foster's misstep or a weakly written role, it's noticeable for sure.
All said and done, Elysium is well made, intense, and a lot of fun. It easily jumps into the top 5 summer movies for me, and it's a spectacle-type flick that lends intself to the big screen format. Matt Damon, as well as his supporting cast members (minus the aformentioned Foster) do a convicing job and keep us focused on humans in the midst of machinery and mayhem.
Elysium probably won't live up to the standard of District 9, but it does enough right to stand on its own as a solid entry in the sci-fi genre.