Thursday 22 August 2013, 17:20
Set in 2154 (that’s 141 years in the future folks), Elysium is a manmade spaceship, acting as a home for people who are rich enough to buy a ticket to escape Earth, currently being slowly destroyed by its inhabitants. Max (Matt Damon) is an ex-con, trying to get his life back on track and fulfil his lifelong dream of purchasing an escape ticket to Elysium. Exposed to extreme radiation through the terrible working conditions of his job, the rest of his life is suddenly reduced to a mere 5 days, amping up his desperation and his willingness to do whatever it takes to get him to the place where illness can be eradicated and poverty is a distant memory.
On hand to stop him is Defence Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster), whose utter contempt for the poor and helpless is never explained, to the film’s detriment, except under the generic umbrella of “megalomania”. While Max is having a metal, robotic skeleton fused to his body (so that every time he moves, his joints make a sound like Bane hissing), Delacourt is planning a presidential coup and a reboot of Elysium, so that she can blow up all the illegal immigrants without it causing too much in the way of paperwork and stern tellings-off. The reboot is also the key for potentially stamping out inequality amongst humans, if it falls into the right hands.
The ideas here are fascinating and there is so much potential for a truly great sci-fi film that takes a genuinely topical political stance. Director Neill Blomkamp also directed District 9, which looked at segregation between “prawns”, an alien race forced to live in horrific conditions on Earth, and humans who were infinitely better off. District 9 was successful with the critics and the public (although pretty traumatic, I definitely couldn’t sit through it again), so Blomkamp has proven already that he can use sci-fi to tackle serious political and humanitarian issues and it’s a shame that he fell short in Elysium by concentrating more on the robotics and logistics rather than the bad guys who are dealt with unsatisfactorily.
There were moments where it felt like I was watching Matt Damon attempt to be The Terminator, the fight scenes were shaky and blurry, so pretty boring to watch. I wanted to see more of Elysium itself, the comparisons between the elite and the poor, I wanted the type of establishing shots which were the only scenes done well in Tom Cruise’s Oblivion. Shots of thin people getting out of swimming pools don’t count. Character development was also done pretty badly, you never really find out Delacourt’s motivation and Damon could have been replaced with any actor because his performance skills weren’t called upon nearly enough. You see flashes of Max‘s personality but once the five day countdown is on, he may as well have become part of the fleet of robots that he initially despises.
There is a decent film in here somewhere but the fact that you have to look pretty hard to find it, especially in comparison to District 9, means that Elysium was a disappointment for me.