Elysium (2013)

Director:  Neil Blomkamp
Cast:  Matt DamonJodie FosterSharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna
Plot:  Set in the year 2154, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.

Genre:  Action / Sci-Fi
Awards:  -
Runtime:  109min
Rating:  NC16 for strong bloody violence and language throughout.

The film was reviewed in the IMAX format.

Give director Neil Blomkamp a far bigger budget, and you would expect a far better movie right?  Wrong.  With more than US$100 million at his disposal, it is almost a given that Blomkamp would make a hit allegorical blockbuster in a genre that he helped to revitalize and radicalize with District 9 (2009), an indie sci-fi feature shot in a refreshing docu-realist style.  That film was made only with US$30 million. 

Elysium, his latest, is by large a disappointment.  Mind you, I am a huge Blomkamp fan, but this was underwhelming at best.  The conceptual premise that structures the sci-fi world of the film is simple yet intriguing - the poor and diseased live on a polluted Earth, while the rich live on Elysium, a few hundreds of thousands of miles away from Earth. 

Elysium looks like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), a fascinating ring structure that I think Kubrick would probably have approved.  They have amazing medical care over there.  The rich are cancer-free and enjoy a bountiful, near immortal life.  Ask Jodie Foster, who plays a scheming defence strategist for the space colony.

She has to stop a bald Matt Damon from ruining her grand plans, the least of which involves a coup d’├ętat.  Damon essentially plays the hero, a boy who becomes a man, who eventually finds his calling.  For much of Elysium, the characters feel underdeveloped.  The flashback scenes of Damon's younger days and his potential love interest fail to touch us, becoming superfluous in the big scheme of things. 

Sharlto Copley's menacing and violent portrayal of the film's chief villain steals the show, but even then the final climactic showdown feels obligatory rather than as a result of circumstance laid forth by the narrative.

Speaking of which, the narrative flow feels too convenient, and so are some of its plot elements.  An imploded face miraculously reconstructs itself in a medical pod.  That is testing the limits of believability because it is one thing to re-atomize a body to be cancer-free (presumably through corrective radiography), but it is another thing altogether to 'correct' a messed-up face. 

Elysium ultimately feels too briskly-paced to amount to anything bordering on substantial plot and character development.  It needs to slow down, go deep into the emotional core of the story, and unearth the gem of a blockbuster it ought to have been.

Verdict:  Blomkamp delivers an underwhelming sci-fi actioner that is uncharacteristically thin in plot and character.


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