Review: Elysium

District 9 director Neill Blomkamp returns with yet another muddy, high tech vision of a dystopian future, maintaining a vigil on social equalities or lack thereof. It doesn’t quite stand up to District’s brutish reality or metaphor, but it is a decent ride.

The film follows Max and Frey, two kids who grew up on the diseased, slum filled streets of Earth, who dream (like everyone on Earth) to belong on the orbital utopia known as Elysium. Elysium however is only for the richest, brightest and most famous, and it has vast technological advancement so far as being able to cure cancer.
However, when an accident at work makes Max (Matt Damon) fatally ill, he joins a resistance movement and dons a powerful exo-skeleton to right the social wrongs. At the same time, Elysium’s security chief (Jodie Foster) looks to overthrow the current President.

There’s a lot of high sci-fi concepts going on here, from current social issues to the heady science fiction involved, Elysium had great potential to be a stand out experience. But… as the story goes on it becomes less compelling; the final act is more of a straight up shooter/brawl fest that abandons nearly all of its ingenuity.

Critically, Jodie Foster’s character felt criminally underused as the morally ambiguous “villain”, the film instead focuses on the brutish Kruger (played by the chameleonic Sharlto Copley) whose accent is nearly impenetrable. There’s also several glaring plot conveniences, that are a little too obvious.

So what is good about Elysium? The pacing is excellent, the opening two acts are sturdy and introduce this future and humanity’s duality very well. Visually it is as excellent as District 9, from the grainy, bleak slums to the clever robot, ship and weapon designs (though not quite as humorously unsettling as D9‘s weapons.) Matt Damon is good as the everyman-turn-hero, and Foster and Copley are fully invested too as the antagonists.

As a fan of video games, I saw huge similarities with Mass Effect, specifically with the Elysium station itself.

I certainly enjoyed the film, it never bored me and had a lot of well implemented sci-fi concepts! It just lacked a completely satisfying conclusion, as if the makers wrote themselves into a corner and just improvised.

Additional Marshmallows: I really liked how one Elysium citizen had a space craft/hover car that was branded as a Bugatti. That was clever.

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