Let’s get straight to the point: Neil Blomkamp’s sophomore offering Elysium is much better than you’ve been led to believe. All over the blogosphere it seems like doom and gloom is associated with Elysium. People seem to be talking about how much of a let down Elysium was and hot it wasn’t as good as District 9. They’re all wrong.
Don’t listen to the 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. Don’t listen to anyone who says anything less than glowing praises.
Elysium is wonderful. It’s a fantastic, socially conscious roller-coaster. It’s exactly what I wanted to see.
The film centers on an ex-car their, Max De Costa (Matt Damon), who through a series of traumatic events ends up needing to gain medical attention that he can only receive on a space station which is orbiting Earth. Through the course of the film, Max ends up having an ex0-suit, think a functional Iron Man-ish costume, screwed onto his body.
The film is a very thinly valed U.S./Mexican boarder allegory. It’s delightful.
The film has a breakneck speed and intensity. The film has a few minor slow points, where we flash back to see what Max’s life was like as an orphan, but other than that it barrels ahead for two straight hours.
When I initially heard that Matt Damon was going to star in the then untitled Neil Blomkamp film I was a little let down. I assumed that with a massive star would come more studio restrictions and less creative freedom for Blomkamp. If that was the case, it’s not apparent. The other initial hang up I experienced when I heard of Damon’s involvement was that it’s very difficult for me to really invest in a character when a massive star is playing he or she. I’m happy to say that Blomkamp’s direction and Damon’s performance melded perfectly and I was not stopped from immersing myself in the film due to Damon’s Star Power.
When discussing the film, it’s a given that two aspects of the film will be instantly brought up. 1) The socio-politial overtones, and 2) the special effects. It was interesting seeing Blomkamp tackle a political subject that has a few more grey areas to it than apartheid. It should also be noted that the politics in Elysium are definitely there, and are an important element of the story but they’re somehow more obscured. They feel more like set dressing instead of actors themselves. The South African politics in District 9 were so intense that you could practically taste it coming off the screen. In Elysium, they’re still there. Still in the foreground, but toned down slightly.
Elysium’s focus is more on the ‘roller-coster action’ and less on the thought provoking allegory. I think that’s a good thing. It shows that Blomkamp is stretching his wings a bit. He’s still doing something familiar and in his wheel house but not attempting to repeat the success of District 9. It’s a smart move.
As for the special effects, they are astounding. The CG is out of this world. The robots look tangible. The gore, which there’s more than I thought there’d be, looks realistic and gruesome. The set design, character design, and overall look and feel of the film are spot on.
Elysium is a delightful summer film that asks its audience to ponder modern day political problems. It doesn’t bark at them or make them feel guilty. It simply states that there is a problem and then entertains the crowd for two hours.