Written & Directed by Neill Blomkamp
The future is something each and every one of us thinks about probably on a daily basis. What does it hold for us? Tomorrow, next week, next year? Where will the world be in 10 years, 100, 1000? The science-fiction genre lends itself quite well to this quandary. However, the future if mostly depicted with great technological advancements, often turning a blind eye to the plight of the lower classes in those societies in favor of showing fancy gadgets and possible realities in the distant future. But with the state of the world today, it is not far off to realize a wasted Earth, overpopulated and rundown. Perhaps a great premise for a science-fiction film, and a setup for a tale of class struggle, Elysium features great prospects, but ultimately comes out bland.
Bona fide movie star Matt Damon stars as the film’s protagonist, Max, a lowly Earthing with the privilege of having a job in Los Angeles in 2154. Although living in an overpopulated, horrid environment, Max lives in better conditions than most. However, when an industrial accident occurs in the arms factory where he works, Max is left to die in 5 days due to radiation exposure. He must fight the powers that be, the wealthy who live in a space community called Elysium, in order to make it to the remote and exclusive space station, where medical bays that can cure his ailment exist. Along the way he must get by the ruthless agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley) and the power hungry politician Delacourt (Jodie Foster).
Blomkamp’s debut effort, District 9, was much in the same vein as Elysium. A science fiction class struggle set in future times. What that film excelled at, this one failed. Blomkamp’s previous effort brought me into the world of the film by giving me a good setup of the world of the future in which the story was to take place. The characters of the film were not only well thought out, but presented with enough depth and sense of emotion that I was invested in their outcome. In Elysium, Blomkamp seems reserved to just take a premise and expect it to carry the film, present a compelling situation and fail to provide an emotional, personal hold. The character development and world building in this film is near non-existent and keeps it to a fairly generic genre film.
The entire way through the film I kept asking questions about the society in which the film was taking place. Simple questions that could have been easily answered, and could have enhanced the experience of the film by making the future world a little more known, instead of a one sentence blurb at the beginning of the film “explaining” how we got to 2154. The same can be said about Max and every other character in the film. It was a frustrating experience to have no idea how this world worked, how we go there, and what the motives and history of these characters were. There was no why, which ultimately made the story flop, becoming too distant for me to connect to on any personal level, to care about the outcome.
As a result, the supposed payoffs at the end of the film were also less fulfilling. Without the necessary foundation, the moments of victory of good over evil were less celebratory and more “meh” worthy. The cast of the film was fine, considering they were painted with broad strokes. I have no idea why Foster had a bizarre accent, but I had no idea on a lot of different things in this film. Much of the film felt manufactured instead of natural, scenarios set up almost with a “isn’t this a cool futuristic idea” wink, but without the depth to make it truly effective. Elysium is a step back for Blomkamp; a botched opportunity of a promising concept. At least there are some pretty images.
**1/2 – Average