Genre(s): Action, Drama, Sci-fi
Director(s): Neill Blomkamp
Release Year: 2013
South African filmmaker (and fellow Vancouverite) Neill Blomkamp was a random name when the deleted “Halo” film had announced him as the director. When the Halo adaptation had failed to lift off to the big screen, producer Peter Jackson teamed up with the director to bring a previous short of Blomkamp’s, “Alive in Joburg”, to the big screen. Luckily we were treated to the Academy Award Nominated “District 9.” Featuring a break-out performance from lead Sharlto Copley and stunning special effects from Jackson’s own Weta Digital, “District 9” was a big hit with both audiences and critics despite a lack of name recognition through actors.
This year, Blomkamp has come back to sci-fi with his follow-up, “Elysium.” Starring Matt Damon
as Max, a former car thief who is poisoned with radiation during a workplace accident giving him
days to live. In order to survive, he needs to get past Jodie Foster as the head of security on
Elysium and her vicious henchman, Kruger, to receive a regenerative process on the Halo like space
station to bring himself back to full health.
With District 9 being my favorite blockbuster of 2009 with its gorgeous visuals, emotional honesty
and breathtaking action sequences, my expectations were admittedly high upon arrival to the theater.
So I sit down, the lights dim and the movie starts. We get our intertitles explaining why things
are the way they are in the universe we will be inhabiting for the next two hours. And then I sit
there pretty bored for the next hour and a half. The idea for the film is captivating. People
who have the money to spend are able to live on Elysium, a virtual paradise where consequences
do not exist and life doesn’t end. Earth is for the people that can’t afford to do such things.
I am on board for the balance of creative action and allegorical story telling but the movie just
To be perfectly honest, it all starts with Matt Damon’s character. Acting as a particular “everyman,”
he doesn’t bring much of anything to the roll that can’t be brought over by any other actor out
there. The screenplay is mostly to blame for this but I feel like something else aside from
star power could have been brought to the role so I could have truly cared more about his
character which in turn might have made me care about the world that I was sitting in. What I’ve
said goes for Foster as well but feels even more underwritten than Damon’s character is. If
there is one highlight for character than it is Kruger played by the once again magnificent,
Sharlto Copley. His character is just so brutal and vicious that I feared if he wasn’t played
by Copley than that role would have been boring as well. Copley adds so much charisma and fun to
the role that you can’t help but laugh when he says a disturbing one liner followed by a
kill so nasty and creative, you start to question your own sanity since you find it as entertaining
as the character does.
The action of the film is still entertaining as hell and well shot but unfortunately the stakes
don’t seem very high when just a few minutes long ride on a spaceship, there’s going to be a medpod
to heal someone or we’ve hardly seen that character for very long in the first place so why would
it even matter. I’d call the film dense but I usually like to use the word for stories that will
actually go somewhere with the plot. Just like this year’s, “The Wolverine”, yet even less successful,
Elysium decides to bring a plot and completely stop caring by the time the final third of the film
shows up. Not while the ideas are completely interesting in “The Wolverine” but each film is
attempting to do something with the characters or concepts and fail to bring a conclusion that
satisfies or can even be thought of as a conclusion.
While I love that Blomkamp has brought back smart sci-fi action back to the mainstream (a la Verhoeven), I hope that his next film is more successful. I wouldn’t necessarily tell anyone to rush to the theater to see it, I’d say at least give it a watch at home for another amazing performance from Sharlto Copley. Even if the film doesn’t completely succeed, at least it’s more creative with its concepts (not to be mixed up with plot contrivances) than almost all of the movies this year.