Elysium (2013)

9 Aug

 

If you haven’t seen Niell Blomkamp’s directorial debut District 9, then Elysium will probably come off as one of the best sci-fi films to hit theaters recently.  But for those of us who saw (and loved) District 9, it’s impossible not to compare the two pictures, and unfortunately, the former proves Niel Blomkamp is capable of far better work.

Elysium follows Max (Matt Damon), who is living in Los Angeles over a hundred years from now.  Most of Earth as we know it has become degenerated to an overpopulated ghetto and the few richest citizens have moved up into space in this new-age living station thing called Elysium. Of course, its the earthlings who provide the manual labor and resources while the rich up above apparently spend their days tending the garden, speaking French and drinking white wine.

Things get complicated when Max undergoes an accident at work and receives harmful radiation which gives him a mere 5 days to live. Knowing he can be healed on Elysium, he plans some sort of espionage/hacking/hijacking scenario so he can get up there with the top. There is also this sub-plot involving his childhood crush and something about a South African man’s plot to take over Elysium by force, but we won’t get bother getting into that.

Anyway, while Blomkamp has some great ideas going, they never really go anywhere. While the film is fast-paced and thoroughly entertaining, the last 30 minutes are a cluttered mess that ends with a resolution that feels forced and uninteresting. Blomkamp makes up for his lack of story development by giving us some of the best visuals we have seen all year.  The man got his start in the industry from creating special effects, and (with the help of some of the guys from WETA) he shows off his expertise wonderfully.

The cast includes acting heavyweights Damon and Jodie Foster (who is tragically misused), and supporting work by Sharlto Copely, Alice Braga, William Fichtner, and Diego Luna. For the most part, everything works as it should, but there are times when the dialogue is thin and characters feel artificial.

District 9 was one of those rare films that finds the perfect balance of action, character, story, genre, and social commentary, all the while remaining true to its blockbuster form (without a leading star!) and refusing to be watered down to the family-friendly PG-13 film we have seen a zillion times over.  District 9 tries to follow in the same footsteps, but falls just a bit short. I give props to Bloomkamp for taking his big ideas about the Occupy/ “Us vs. Them” movement and bringing them to life, despite the fact that he might have bitten off more than he could chew in the process.

 

 

Rating 6/10

Similar to: Equilibrium, I Am Legend, Gattaca

 

 

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