Friday, September 06, 2013


Coming off of District 9 and his commercials for Halo, Neil Blomkampf set the bar high for what we hoped to see in his next film - Elysium; a serious thought provoking sci-fi work grounded in an aesthetic that is gritty and dangerous and real.

When it comes to the production of Elysium, we aren't left disappointed. The design work of Elysium's world, it's vessels, its mechanical constructions, guns, robots etc. is very awesome. A nice meld of something clean and manufactured juxtaposed with something that is thrown together and seen its fair share of wear & tear & repair. Blomkampf has a neat eye for creating some great sequences using all of this in tandem and creates some memorable images that will stick with you. These moment and the action sequences will certainly leave you satisfied, though on occasion some of the action is hindered by an overuse of the standard handheld or shaky cam technique that could've been reigned in a little; but that's a minor complaint. The acting is also good enough to get you by, and District 9's protagonist, actor Sharto Copley, also returns as a new character in Elysium that many will be plesantly surprised to see.

Unfortunately, all the good stuff won't excuse an incredibly disappointing story. Elysium deals with the topic of illegal immigration. Matt Damon's character is a boy raised in poverty who tries to live honestly after a long criminal record. He hopes to one day go to the Satellite City in the Sky 'Elysium' to have a good life. When an accident at work leaves him with only a few days to live, he agrees to undergo a dangerous procedure that outfits his body with an exo-skeleton like apparatus that will allow him to infiltrate and copy protected data from a high ranking resident of Elysium that will grant smugglers the key to getting by Elysium's defenses. Elysium is also home to machines that can cure all diseases, symptoms, cancers, broken limbs, even apparently delay death, and do other near miraculous bodily reconstructions. These machines are only available to the priviledged residents of Elysium, whereas everyone else on Earth must go without.

We are never told if these medical machines have any limitations that would resonably only be available to the rich of Elysium who could afford it. Instead we are simply given the impression that the only reason such technology is kept from the slum residents of Earth is because cartoon-villians run Elysium that hate to share their benefits with anyone. Odd, given that the movie seems to emphasize somewhat that those illegally trying to cross the border into Elysium are usually desperate for medical attention. And if Elysium wanted to deter that all they had to do was simply supply some machines to Earth which would keep most everyone happy. Instead we are simply supposed to buy into the idea that it's merely a class elitest attitude that prevents this from happening rather than any logistical and resource reasons and monetary complications, you know... like in the real world...

In the end, instead of being interesting social commentary on debated topics that are currently ongoing in the United States with regards to immigration and health care, Elysium simply ends up being a simplistic propaganda piece for leftist liberalism that completely eschews any realistic take on the subject. Those who refuse to go along with opening the borders and providing unrestricted health care are simply made out to be racist or uncaring. There was a great opportunity in Elysium to handle the complex issues surrounding both sides of these debates, but Blomkampf blew it. It's really too bad...

To sum up Elysium, unless you're interested merely in the action, effects & production design, there's no reason to engage in it. It's a pretty shell for the hardware but lacks the innards.