Ryan here. I’ll be flying solo this week with a look at Neil Blomkamp’s sci-fi thriller Elysium (R).
Set in the not-so-distant future, Elysium presents a divided future where the very wealthy live on a Garden of Eden-type space station while the other 99 percent of the population live on an Earth that’s been ravaged by disease, pollution and social decay. Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley and Alica Braga costar in the film.
Ryan: Blomkamp’s last feature film, District 9 (2009), was one of the best contemporary sci-fi films of recent years. It was a memorable film that captured what people like about sci-fi films – great action set against an allegorical story. It was masterfully crafted. Unfortunately Elysium doesn’t measure up to the greatness of District 9. Elysium certainly isn’t a bad film, but it struggles mightily at the end in resolving its philosophical and narrative conflicts.
One of the biggest issues with Elysium is that it’s not as fleshed it as it could have been. Blomkamp is a talented filmmaker. And like Christopher Nolan, he’s a master of telling a story in an immediate and dynamic manner.
From the drama to the action, Elysium feels hyper-real. The film aesthetics (special effects, tone and world-building) are fantastic and noteworthy. Stylistically, Elysium is one of the best looking films of the summer. But unlike District 9, the meat of the story is not fully integrated into the narrative. There’s obvious political issues that the movie touches on (immigration, pollution, wage inequality and health care), but none of these issues are dealt with in a satisfying manner – it’s too black and white. There’s an emptiness to it that is frustrating cinematically.
Also adding to that frustration is an ending that completely collapses upon itself. There’s a lot of action going on at the end of the film,and Bloomkamp’s cross-cutting between scenes leaves a lot to be desired.