When District 9 came out I loved it. I thought to myself that this director will surely go somewhere. Neill Blomkamp surely took himself some good time for the next movie. The title ‘Elysium’ early on found its way to the internet. As well as the fact that it’s a scifi movie tackling the same issues District 9 wanted to show. Scifi with a strong message.
In Elysium we follow Max (Matt Damon). He grew up as an orphan and slipped into a not so goodie way of life. Stealing and shady businesses followed him everywhere. And honestly the world he lives in doesn’t leave him much choice. Now grown up he’s on parole and working in an arms factory that builds defence systems for Elysium. One day he has a horrible accident that pretty much renders him useless for the factory and leaves him 5 days to live. The only chance for him to survive is to get to Elysium. Elysium is a completely different world. Only the privileged and rich get there and it’s pretty much paradise compared to a completely overpopulated Earth. On Elysium is medical equipment that can help him to recover from the radiation dose that slowly kills him. So Max meets up with a couple of old contacts. These contacts are an underground operation that tries to hit Elysium wherever they can. They have a plan and Max is like a present at the right time. Because he’s the key to execute that plan. Max agrees because he doesn’t have much of a choice. The plan is to kidnap someone from Elysium. And Max knows the right person. The boss of the defence factory he was working in. From then on things happen and the resulting chain of events leads Max to Elysium. But can he make it in time?
The plot is very ambitious but at the same time very simple. Matt Damon carries the movie very well. I had my doubts seeing pictures of him in that exo-skeleton suite and that little screen nailed to the back of his head. It looked goofy. So I was surprised that it did not take me out of the movie when I watched it. It’s easy to accept and suspend disbelief for that part. It did not hinder Damon to put on some solid acting. Jodie Foster, who plays some sort of minister of defence for Elysium, I guess did what the script told her to do. But nothing more. I wished she had more of a story arc to her but she was just there to be evil. A missed opportunity. I mean… she doesn’t have to turn good all of a sudden but there could have been done more with her character. Then we have Alice Braga, who plays a childhood friend and love interest for Max. She does a great and believable job with her character. She plays Frey, someone Max knows from growing up in the orphanage. They became friends but lost track of each other as life took its course. Frey became a nurse. And while Max seemed to have always wanted the best for her, he seemed to have failed all too often. Last but not least we have Kruger. Now doesn’t that name scream ‘bad guy’? Sure enough Kruger is the lead bad guy. He’s hired by Jodie Foster’s character and a sleeper agent mercenary kind of thing. Whenever there are difficulties in need to be handled on Earth, he’s the go to guy. Kruger is played by Sharlto Copley. His last big parts were the lead in District 9 and playing Murdock in the A-Team movie. But here in Elysium he is playing such a completely different kind of guy. He’s a serious sadistic psychopath and we get that vibe early on. Most of the time he looks like living straight out of a trash can, completely worn out and done. But he’s a threat better taken serious. Sharlto Copley is the biggest surprise in this movie. I haven’t seen such a badass villain in a long time. And he’s damn believable in that role. I really enjoyed that Kruger character.
Another character in the movie is the look. And that look works great. The effort put into the worldbuilding for this film surely paid off. What we see from Earth is depressing. It’s basically a desert flooded with shanty towns and screaming from overpopulation. That’s where the movie visually connects to District 9. The factory max works in has a nice design and screams ‘dangerous environment to work in and we don’t care about our workers’. What we see from Elysium is just plain beautiful. It truly does look like Paradise compared to Earth. I don’t know exactly how much Syd Mead was involved in the Concept stage of the production, but I saw his influence numerous times. The whole look and visual feel of the movie felt fluid. Nothing felt out of place. It’s also remarkable how good the VFX in general looked. I mean the aerial shots of Elysium looked pretty much photorealistic. And to get something like that right is quite a task! In one word: Believable.
There are a couple of weak spots in the movie though. The first one is when Max becomes radiated. The argument would be: “hey, why don’t they send a robot into the chamber?”. And yes, why don’t they? This felt like a little forced plot device to move forward and give Max a true reason to get to Elysium. It’s there to show that Elysium people are plain evil. And that’s a strange message to begin with. The movie pretty much conveys that all rich people are bad and have to be dealt with. There seems to be no one on Elysium who cares about Earth anymore. And I find that a little drastic. Especially since our heroes in the movie are pretty much terrorists. There are one or two scenes where people under the command of Jodie Foster seem to have doubts about her orders. I would have loved to see more of the inner conflicts of Elysium itself. But there’s nothing about that in the movie except two or three smaller scenes. Because seriously… I doubt everyone on Elysium really is a bad person. Then we have the whole story with Frey where at one point Max is leading the bad guys directly to her. Another thing is the ‘over the head’ message the movie wants to deliver. The parting of rich and poor and how it could end. It feels very forced and the movie ending is a little bit too schmaltzy. The thing that almost took me out of the movie was the permanent shakycam. Even in moments where it was completely unnecessary. This movie has so many really good camera moments and used the camera well. But it all is brought down by the constant use of shakycam in scenes where it was completely unnecessary. It almost gave me a headache.
As a whole this movie is worth seeing. The performances are good and the visuals stunning and beautiful. If you are a Scifi artist like me, this movie will give you tons of inspiration!
A solid 7.7/10 for me.