Not only is there a hollowness to the more philosophical issues of the film, but ultimately the end of the movie lacks that big emotional payoff that one would have hoped for. The film suffers from “blockbuster-itis” where they just had to have an over-the-top action set piece to conclude the film.
Also falling short is the development of the two lead characters played by Damon and Foster. Damon’s good in the film (When isn’t he?) but his character is poorly underwritten. The depth of the character is framed by flashbacks and the filmmakers clearly go to that well one too many times. Obviously we root for the character, but it’s a stretch to completely buy into his motivations.
What’s even worse is Foster’s performance/ role. It’s not all her fault. Her character is a one-note villain and she plays it straight, but too straight. Being a little hammy in a part like this would have been acceptable. But she seems incapable of delivering that type of performance (although, to be fair I’m not sure what actor could have salvaged that role).
Also disconcerting about Elysium is its general bleakness of humankind. Not to get all spoilery, but the film’s narrative is not resolved by any of the characters having a change of heart. The world is only changed inadvertently through a loophole in a computer program.
It really seems like nobody in the movie learned anything.
And that is demoralizing.
Stylistically, Elysium is worth watching, but from a substance standpoint the movie falls short.
Final grade: C+.