In the future the poor masses live on Earth while the rich elite reside on a massive orbiting satellite called Elysium, where they bask in luxury and enjoy nearly limitless healthcare. Max, an ex-con turned average Joe, through circumstances beyond his control, finds his life on the line and undertaking a suicidal mission to Elysium, a mission that may be of benefit to everyone on Earth.
In 2009, South African write/director, Neill Blomkamp, saw out-of-nowhere success with his wonderfully enjoyable sci-fi adventure, District 9. Sporting no big names but with endless charm, an original story and fantastic visuals, District 9 marked Blomkamp as a definite ‘one to watch’ which paid off for him immediately as he was touted to helm the big-budget Halo movie.
That fell to pieces in pre-production, but Blomkamp used it as an opportunity to get another one of his original concepts off the ground, only this time with full access to all Hollywood had to offer, so what could go wrong?
Elysium had a fantastic trailer, promising extraordinary visuals and Matt Damon back in Bourne mode and it delivers on at least one of those promises. The visuals ARE spectacular; building on the visual aesthetic of District 9, Blomkamp has created an Earth that is, for all intense and purposes, the biggest shanty town ever, seamless CG effects building a world of vast, cobbled together disorganisation that actually makes you feel a little grimy just watching it.
By contrast the visuals of Elysium are clean, crisp and wonderfully paradoxical, melding a Beverly Hills-like environment to the back of super-technology that arches around into the distant horizon.
Unfortunately these are the high points of the film.
The notion of the rich few living above the poor many, figuratively and literally, is nothing new to the world of sci-fi, numerous novels, movies and anime using the very same set-up to varying levels of interest. Besides the visuals, Elysium adds nothing new to the mix, in fact the basic conceit added to this set-up holds up less and less once thought about in any kind of detail.
The characters, while not poorly portrayed, feel relatively hollow, filling out archetypes rather than personalities, Matt Damon does stern faced down-trodden good guy, Jodie Foster does stern faced ice-queen corporate baddy, though to this a sour note has to be added for South African actor, Sharlto Copley. Wonderful as the underdog hero of District 9, here makes for the worst kind of pantomime villain.
I don’t ordinarily mind a loud, hammy villain, but with this Copley infuses little to no threat level at all, despite his efforts to do so, and so you are left with no real tension which in turn leads on to waning interest.
Elysium isn’t terrible, and is certainly worth seeing for the visuals, but it’s not original and the lack of anything remotely gripping causes you to analyse the plot in more detail, which doesn’t really hold up to the scrutiny.
C- grade – for story
A- grade – visuals
B grade – for pacing
C+ grade – for acting
Overall grade – C+