I wasn’t particularly excited when I set out this evening to watch Matt Damon’s latest project, sci-fi thriller Elysium, but what kind of a poor humble student would I be if I didn’t accept my dad’s offer of a free cinema trip? I may have lost interest in all action films since I overdosed with the Expendables franchise, but I had faith in director Neil Blomkamp after the success of District 9 a few years ago.
Blomkamp is obviously sticking to what he does best, as the parallels with District 9 become obvious from very early scenes in the new film. We are presented with a slum city with a huge spaceship looming over it, until one member of the oppressed class discovers a world-changing technology in a thinly veiled metaphor for immigration and apartheid. Oh and Sharlto Copley, the guy who played Wikus van de Merwe, is back with an even broader South African accent.
However, despite Elysium not having the original plot and characters of District 9, it does make changes (for better and worse) to the formula. Elysium‘s antagonist, Agent Kruger (Copley), is very well acted, unpredictable and absolutely insane, and a world away from District 9‘s uptight bureaucrat Wikus. Meanwhile Max (Damon) is almost every bit the Hollywood hero you have come to expect (and probably hate), with all the key ingredients – lots of fight scenes, self-sacrifice, muscles, explosions, and unresolved childhood issues.
Unfortunately the female characters fare slightly worse. There are only three in the film, one of whom is only a child and spends most of her time in a coma. The main female character, Frey, serves as the helpless love-interest trope, while the only other woman in the film seems to have been changed to a female part at the last minute to balance out their M:F ratio. Jodie Foster fails to justify her presumably hefty paycheck, playing a one-sided, underdeveloped villain who could have been played by anyone from Morgan Freeman to Ke$ha and would have made no more of an impact on the narrative.
On a (dubiously) positive note, there are several people whose heads or bodies explode in particularly gruesome and gratuitously bloody fashion for all you Tarantino fans. You can also challenge yourself to spot as many product placements for famous brands as possible in the first half hour (I counted 4).
To conclude, Elysium is a good concept, albeit one that had already been done four years ago by the same director, but which could have been done well. Unfortunately beneath the sci-fi veneer is another mass-produced Hollywood action thriller, which can’t quite be saved by a stand-out performance by Sharlto Copley as the chief maniac. If you like guns and spaceships and explosions, maybe this is the film for you, but if you want anything more than bald Matt Damon’s uber-masculine Call Of Duty adventure, perhaps try something else.
(Note: This is the first film I have given a rating out of ten on this blog, so I’m assuming 0/10 would be The Room while 10/10 would be City Of God or Blade Runner)