Friday, 31 January 2014

Elysium

After years of working as a short film director and 3D animator for TV shows such as Stargate SG-1 and Smallville, Neil Blomkamp has moved his focus to the silver screen. In 2009 he unleashed District 9 upon the world, a sci-fi action film that became a massive cult hit, and ensured that he was a force to be reckoned with. District 9 was an incredible spectacle of a film, so hopes were extremely high for Blomkamp's next feature film. Is Elysium as good as District 9? Well no, but it's still an excellent action film in its own right.


Elysium is set in 2154, and depicts a futuristic Earth that is in a truly awful state. Crime is rampant, disease is widespread and every country is overpopulated, all the while robots patrol the streets to keep humanity in line. It's a nightmarish future, but while the poor inhabitants of Earth struggle to survive, the rich reside in Elysium; a massive space station that allows its inhabitants to live a long and disease free life. The film stars Matt Damon as Max Da Costa, a former car thief and parolee who works in a factory that supplies weapons to Elysium.


After a radiation accident, Max is given the news that he has five days to live. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Max decides to make his way to Elysium, the only place that has the technology that will cure his otherwise certain death sentence. Getting into Elysium won't be that easy though, as any unauthorised incoming ships are routinely blasted out of the sky. Now, armed with a crude exoskeleton fused to his body, Max must storm Elysium in order to save his life. However, it's not just his own fate that rests on his shoulders, but also the fate of mankind and the people who remain on Earth.

Elysium focuses on the age-old poor/rich issue, and depicts a world in which the gulf between the two is absolutely monumentally obscene. Of course, this issue has reared its head once again in a big way in the last few years, and Elysium tries to tap into that. However, while I completely welcome a sci-fi that's more than just CGI explosions, Elysium treats these important issues in a very heavy handed and overtly ham-fisted approach. There's no flair of subtly here, it's a “the rich guys are bad, the poor guys are good” type of affair. It's disappointing and almost irritating at times.

That said Elysium is excellent when dealing with straightforward action. In Max's attempt to reach Elysium, Kruger is in his way at every turn. Basically, Kruger is the big bad of Elysium, and much like Max himself, Kruger geared up with an incredibly powerful exoskeleton. While there are fantastic action set pieces that involve the police robots, as well as some great space scenes, the true brilliance of Elysium is apparent when Max and Kruger come out to play.


It gets gritty, violent and keeps the viewer absolutely planted to their seat. Don't get me wrong though, Elysium isn't a dumb action film that happens to harp on about social commentary, not at all. It's smart in the right places, wonderfully designed, epically presented, and at least tries to tackle a subject worth talking about, worth bringing to a film that some might write off as a mindless blockbuster.

Overall Elysium doesn't reach the heights District 9 did, but ends up being a smart, thrilling and a hugely fun take on an Earth that is on the brink of tearing itself apart. Perhaps expectations were far too high for Elysium, but if approached as its own film and not as “a film from the same guy who made District 9” as most of the publicity wanted you to know, it's an undeniably awesome piece of sci-fi film making.

Elysium, despite its clunky approach to certain issues, gets an epically awesome 4/5 [].

Denis Murphy


Elysium at CeX



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