‘Elysium’ Movie Review – 80% There
With the summer coming to an end, Neil Blomkamp’s (District 9) Elysium is a fitting end to the blockbuster season. This is both for the good and the bad because while it has the look and feel of a big budget film, it also gets stuck in conventional blockbuster storytelling mode. This ultimately takes away from the film’s overall effectiveness, despite Blomkamp’s stunning portrayal of the future and what it may hold.
Taking place in the year 2154, the film thrusts us into the dichotomous class climate. The bulk of the population is forced to live on a ravished Planet Earth where poverty, disease, and unrest rules the land. A lucky few have been transported to a pristine space station named, you guessed it, Elysium.
The movie’s main character, named Max DeCosta (Matt Damon), is among the unlucky. He’s stuck on Earth with a criminal history and a dream of one day making it to Elysium, where they have technology that can instantly rid you of any flaws. His mission to make it into space becomes imminently urgent when he is infected with a cancerous virus. With only five days until he passes away, Max suddenly becomes desperate to find a way to the highly protected utopia.
Blomkamp essentially broadens the scope and scale of his dystopian world from District 9 to Elysium. It’s grander, dirtier, and somehow more desperate than his alien-infested previous film. It’s pretty obvious what Elysium should be praised most for – and it’s the dystopian world he (and cinematographer Trent Opaloch) have created.
It’s highly unlikely, though, that we’ll remember Elysium as one of the greatest dystopias in ten (or even five) years. The look is there, but the story falters slowly at first, and even after it delivers one of the great action sequences of the year (the brain hijack scene), it continues to become more and more conventional.
Maybe it’s because I just saw Pacific Rim a few weeks ago, but the two films are very comparable.
The narrative never does tighten back up after the main conflict is introduced. All the main characters, among the thousands portrayed, fit conveniently into a story. The ultimate conclusion is a little bit surprising, but it’s not enough to quell all the issues.
It is worth mentioning (and praising) Blomkamp’s not-so-subtle attempt at some social commentary. This is undoubtedly where Elysium stands a fighting chance as being memorable in years time. The movie doesn’t seem concerned with the science-fiction part of the story. It instead takes a human nature and thematic approach to the story which I can appreciate.
I just wish the plot had played out differently.
It’s impossible to satisfy all people. This I understand. And while some people will be happy with a movie that looks and feels cool, I refuse to let it stop there. Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium is so close to being more than just a “summer blockbuster.” It’s probably about 4/5ths of the way there, including the visuals/cinematography, action sequences (there are some badass kills akin to District 9), social commentary, and performances (something I haven’t even mentioned). The plot and pacing is ultimately where the thing starts to break down, making it dangerously close to a sophomore slump.
Elysium is out in wide release starting yesterday. Check it out if it sounds appealing.
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