Film Review : Elysium

, in Films, Science Fiction

Elysium PosterEarth of the mid-21st century is a giant slum. All the rich people live lives of luxury on a giant space station, Elysium, and access is tightly guarded with lethal force. The best part of living on Elysium is a amazing medical technology that can reconstruct bodies and cure almost anything in seconds. Everyone wants it but it is not available to anyone from Earth. Especially not to Max, ex-gangster gone straight, who has just received a massive dose of radiation that will kill him in 5 days. But Max's ex-gangmates have a mechanical exoskeleton and a plan...

Elysium is the latest film from Neill Blomkamp, the director of District 9. Like the previous film, Elysium lays on the social commentary with a trowel but the tone has been sweetened (or perhaps watered down) into a more Hollywood-style consistency. This is much more of a straight action flick than District 9, and much more over-the-top.

The characters are pretty stock, but infused with just enough spark to be interesting. Matt Damon plays Matt Damon (a role he was born to play), Jodie Foster hams it up as the ambitious boss, and District 9's Sharlto Copley seems to be enjoying himself as the designated eeevil Sosth Aphrikan.

In these days of bloodless PG13 blockbusters, it is almost refreshing to actually see blood in a violent film. I am not sure where Hollywood got the idea that you can show all sorts of horrible events but still be suitable for young children so long as the consequences are kept just off screen. Elysium is not actually that violent as these things go, but it does have short sequences of gore appropriate for a R16 rating.

A big disappointment was that Elysium spent a lot of time establishing the pretty neat concept of an exhausted Earth and a pristine space habitat and then did almost nothing with it. The same film could be made substituting an island for the space station without changing the script. Where was the low gravity journey through the non-spinning hub sector, or people drilling through the outer hull into the super-structure? Instead we get a by-the-numbers Hollywood fight scene and a literally Deus Ex Rebooting-machina ending.

So Elysium is perfectly acceptable action fare, with a decent enough story that is well paced and somewhat free from plot holes. And it certainly looks good. It doesn't make waves like District 9 did, but it doesn't batter the audience's intelligence too much either. A solid film if not a great one.

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