in Movies

“Elysium” Review

In the summer of 2009, I went to the movie theater to see a little known film called District 9. At the time, I knew very little about it other than the posters I had seen for it at every bus stop, and the only name I knew that was associated with the movie was Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, obviously).

When I stepped out of the theater that day, I knew I would remember the experience of watching that film for my whole life. I decided that day that I was going to learn as much about the people involved in the movie as I could. Well, here we are four years later.

Elysium is directed by Neill Blomkamp, the man behind the aforementioned District 9. The main thing I enjoyed about Elysium was that it reminded me of District 9, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Now, before we begin on Elysium just yet, let us backtrack some more to some history on Blomkamp.

A few years before he made his directorial debut with District 9, he was known as a young short filmmaker. However, what set him apart from the rest was the chance given to him by Peter Jackson. Jackson, who would go on to produce District 9, hand-picked Blomkamp to help design and create his next blockbuster film… Halo. That’s right, the film adaptation of one of the best-selling video game franchises in the history of the medium.

Unfortunately, for the same reasons why Halo never even went past pre-production – still to this day – it was too big for him. Blomkamp could not handle the pressure and magnitude of the project. So, he and Jackson decided to move on to an idea Blomkamp had shared with him before. Using some of the work that would have gone into the Halo movie, District 9 and Blomkamp’s career were created.

So, now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you about Elysium.

There are many positives to the film, beginning – of course – with the depth of the world that it’s set in. Just as in his previous effort, Blomkamp creates a place on Earth that feels like it already exists, and a place outside of Earth that feels like something that could soon exist. So much of this world that is created in this movie is legitimate, not only for our world right now, but for what our world may soon become. That isn’t to say that this metaphor doesn’t become somewhat tired and overtaxed after awhile, but it works just enough for us to get the point of what the film is trying to say.

Elysium is a story set in a not-so-distant future Los Angeles where all of the wealthy on the planet have moved onto a space station (space resort) orbiting Earth, leaving all inhabitants left behind as second-class citizens. Matt Damon plays a man with a checkered past who, through a series of unforeseen events, must find a way onto the space station (aptly named Elysium). All sorts of fighting, crashing, mauling, and ripping science fiction action ensues. That is all that should be said, as the story gets somewhat flimsier as the run-time goes on.

Something else I feel compelled to point out is that of the performances and the technology in the movie. I won’t go into much detail over the tech created for this world, but I will say, just as in everything Blomkamp has ever done, it is impressive. What this man could do given an Avatar-like budget, nonetheless a video game project of some kind would be a sight to behold.

As for the performances, the film stars Matt Damon as Max, a man forced to find a way into the hardest place to breach in the universe, and Sharlto Copley as Kruger, the man sent to stop him. Damon rarely moves outside of his comfort zone as an actor, so this is a welcome change. I have always liked him in most everything he’s been involved with, but he seems to play Matt Damon more often that not. In Elysium, he seems to at least try to play a character he doesn’t always play (and succeeds).

As for Copley, I must say he is fast becoming one of my favorite actors. Much like Christoph Waltz in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Copley broke onto the American film scene and instantly became a name all Hollywood insiders recognize. Here, he continues to impress me. His character is one I would’ve liked to have seen brought out more and given more to do than look menacingly badass, but still, he is a highlight of the film.

In short, I wish that the film had been longer, which is kind of rare these days. I wish that there had been more time given to some of the characters to develop more, as evidenced by the fact that I didn’t even bring most of them into this review. There were a lot of expectations for this film – personal and otherwise – that it didn’t quite reach.

Some parts were much shorter than they should have been, and more attention to plot should have been paid in the second half. But, there are far too many positives to the film for me to say you shouldn’t spend your time seeking this film out. Just don’t make the same mistake I did and expect for something much more juicy into which to sink your teeth.

three stars

  • Starring: Matt Damon
  • Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
  • Running Time: 109 minutes
  • Genre: Action, Sci-Fi

Written by: Gordon Cook