Elysium – review

“Activate Kruger” – Delacourt

Just recently I lucked upon District 9 on the telly. This 2009 film was Elysium writer/director Neil Blomkamp’s break into world cinema. A clever, cool, gripping, just frankly brilliant sci fi movie. Elysium mirrors District 9 in many ways, not least an overlap of a few cast members. Most notably Sharlto Copley in a great turn as evil enforcer Kruger, an exact reversal of his starring role in District 9. However, to me, Elysium lacked the emotional punch and impact of its precursor. And here’s why.

The titular “Elysium” is an off world paradise, whence the rich have escaped a distopian overpopulated earth. To get there, is to live forever in health and wealth. Matt Damon plays Max, an orphan whose ambition in life has always been to make it to Elysium – as he has promised his child hood friend (and sweetheart?) Frey.

The paradise is run by an ice cold Jodie Foster, in a weird off world accent that she pulls off really well. She’s ruthless in protecting Elysium from attempted illegal immigrants.

The movie takes its time in laying down the ground rules, which is so often the bane of hard sci fi. It does stick to those rules, so there is some pay back for a rather slow first half. The stakes are high, and the plot meshes reasonably well.

But there is something lacking. Is it simply hard to really care about Matt Damon? To me the most effective scene in the movie was where Max confronts his parole officer – a robot (pictured above) to no avail. Reminding me of the infuriating exchanges with AT&T automated call centres…..

The reunion with Max’ estranged childhood friend feels forced, and their relationship never really convinced me. This is a serious problem, as this is the main emotional through line.

A shout out to Neil Blomkamp’s designs and visual style though. That guy is seriously good. The insectoid designs of space craft and droids are┬ásimply finger licking good. He also has a real eye for combat action direction and I salute him for not filming in “glorious”3D!

So, sure, it’s a fun ride, but in the end it all clicked together too smoothly and rather predictably, and I felt no emotional pangs at the dramatic close. In fact, the ending was almost completely ruined by a very sappy voice-over….

All in all, if you want to be amused for a few hours by stunningly styled sci fi action, Elysium is your bet. If you want to be moved…look elswhere.