Entering the scene with District 9, writer/director Neil Blomkamp delivered an Oscar nominated effort that not only blew critics and viewers alike away but also gave the talented artist an avenue to bring his social commentary driven stories to a more mainstream audience.
Elysium stars Matt Damon as Max, a former convict who is trying to turn his life around with a new job and a distance from his past life. After a freak accident at work, Max is left with a life threatening disease and has an estimated five days to live. Because of this, Max goes to Spider (Wagner Moura) who gives him the option of performing a job for him in exchange for access to Elysium, a space base that houses the rich and privileged, where he can get care for his disease.
Max agrees and is put under the knife to install an exoskeleton suit onto his weak body in order to give him strength to perform the task as well as have the power to download a file that will give them safe passage to Elysium. In his way stands Delacourt (Jodie Foster), who is the Elysium Secretary of Defense and on a crusade to keep all Earth borns from entering her sanctuary.
The story kicks off well. It resembles the beginning of District 9 where we go world building and gain a basic knowledge of the world as well as establish our character so that we have a background to care about with him. This does work in Elysium besides the fact that Max is kind of dry. He has passion and ambition now that he is trying to stay clean but at the same time lacks any relatibility or trait that drives us to like him. I feel like the best thing he has going for him is that Damon is playing him. That is great casting though because if someone who wasn’t as talented as Damon was in the role, it could have derailed the movie.
Outside of Damon, the cast is hit or miss. Foster carries a horrible accent the entire time and is so unlikeable it is almost sickening. Alice Braga plays Max’s childhood friend, Frey, and does a solid job but nothing spectacular. The real star of the film is Sharlto Copley as Kruger, a mercenary that is called upon by Delacourt to take out Max. Kruger is an interesting character that not only is entertaining to watch but utterly terrifying. He is somewhat unpredictable and Copley plays him with a little bit of compassion that made me root for him to win.
The biggest flaw the movie probably has is how some of the action is shot. Blomkamp did not do a great job of creating well-done action scenes. While fun, they were loud messes at times and solid lead-ins with music or silence could’ve made them something more memorable. A scene built with tension, silence, or natural sounds could of improved the scenes and made them some of the better action scenes of the summer, instead we are left with a noisy mess that while fun, got somewhat tiring after awhile.
That being said, Elysium is still a well crafted sci-fi and at its core, a lot of fun. Blomkamp is still one of the better writers of science fiction and showed that, while not as good as District 9, he can still craft an enjoyable and entertaining sci-fi that while not making us think as much, will have us leaving cheering and having a jolly good time.