The director, trailer and concept all had so much promise, so why is Elysium such a crushing disappointment? I like to think that after making something as exciting and innovative as District 9, the big studio put a stranglehold around the creative endeavors of Neill Blomkamp as there’s little doubt that he’s a pretty smart, ideas-driven kind of man. A second offering of overt political subtext should provide fertile ground for interesting sci-fi. In 2154, two classes of people exist. The wealthy live
on a space station known as Elysium and the poor are confined to plague ridden, over populated Earth policed by aggressive androids.
The satellite world of Elysium looks gorgeous in CGI, with some incredible panning shots used to suggest scope and dimension. The film begins by introducing the world through the eyes of Max (Matt Damon) and at first it feels intriguing, before gigantic plotholes frustrate (Elysium has no defence system?), and the basic arc of characters make little sense. The film has a marvelous aesthetic and a promising setup without a story capable of matching its appeal. Not only does it make frustratingly little sense but it’s another case of non-stop action filling in for coherent storytelling. Damon has little to do despite endless fights with poorly drawn bad guys and a forgettable romantic subplot. Characters move from being self-centered criminals to self-sacrificing revolutionaries without reason. The ending goes for a tone which completely misses the social and political ramifications of the film’s events. All hell would be breaking lose in the days, weeks, months to come. Is that really bittersweet? As fight is followed by fight, its most interesting element becomes Sharlto Copley’s austere South African accent, which while entertaining, sadly underlines its failings.
Review by David Rank
Elysium is out now in the UK and US. Running time 109 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).