Elysium Isn’t All That Glitters And Shines (Movie Review)

Elysium TNSo if there was a place you could live out all your remaining days in paradise far away from the stress, disease and overpopulated slums on planet Earth that even offers private medical machines, which are able to deliver instant cures, wouldn’t you do anything to be there?  That’s a rhetorical question.  Of course you would!  And that’s exactly how I feel on the matter tool.  I would do anything humanly possible to get my loved ones and I to this heavenly place of refuge, sanctuary and equilibrium.  That’s exactly what Elysium is and offers its inhabitants.  Have a malignant tumor on your spleen?  No problem!  Elysium’s medical machines will fix it for you.  And you better believe, Elysium’s citizens will do everything in their power to preserve this lifestyle and destroy anything and everyone who attempts to break in and/or immigrate illegally.  Beware of dog.  Elysium has a big bite.

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So from what seems like forever, Elysium, the film we are all gathered here to talk about today, is the follow-up to Neill Blomkamp’s very deep and prolific 2009 sci-fi body of work, District 9.  Blomkamp wrote and directed Elysium alongside some of his District 9 crew, most notably actor Sharlto Copley, who this time out plays a villain.  The film also attracts box office stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and William Fichtner, who’s no stranger to big action films.  In addition to the aforementioned the ensemble cast rounds out with Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura and more.  Also to note, the film’s unique musical score was composed by new kid on the block, Ryan Amon.  Alright…I think we covered all the essentials.  Everyone ready?  All hands are accounted for in the space ship?  Great!  Let’s move onto the reason we are all here.  IS ELYSIUM ANY GOOD?

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The long answer to that question I just posed is yes.  The short answer is no.  It was a great way to close out the final month of summer films with a sci-fi one, but it’s not the follow-up we deserve to District 9.  Yes, District 9, admittedly so, is a hard act to follow up, but with Elysium I feel it’s completely flip flopped.  Elysium in my opinion is style and visuals over substance.  No matter how cool the concept of Elysium sounds, you have to be a fan of the Ghost Rider films to fully be able to buy into everything inflicted upon Matt Damon’s character and from which he suffers and goes through to fulfill his ultimate purpose in life.  I mean, it’s cool.  Give the guy a broken arm.  Give him cancer.  But wow!  Isn’t that enough?  Apparently not.  How much can one man take?  On a side note, I thought the exoskeleton was going to be something cool, but in reality it was just a prop that really didn’t live up to the hype in my opinion.  But that’s a whole other story.

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So without giving too much away, let’s talk about the story of Elysium.  It’s the year 2154 and the very wealthy live on a high-tech space station, so to speak, called Elysium, while the rest of Earth is rampaged with disease, overpopulation, crime, poverty…you name it.  Elysium is beautiful from the gardens to the exotic landscapes and architecture.  It’s what I imagine heaven to be like, but I’ll never get there because I’m too poor!  President Patel (Faran Tahir) reigns supreme up there in Elysium as his watchdog, Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Foster), will stop at nothing to prevent illegal immigrants from getting into Elysium.  And I mean nothing.  So after an industrial accident leaves ex-con Max DeCosta (Matt Damon) stricken with cancer and only 5 days left to live, he decides his only recourse is to go up to Elysium to get cured in one of those fancy machines.  If it works for the models, it should work for him, eh?  Yes.  Keep up with me here.  I’m on roll.   So did I mention Matt, I mean DeCosta, also just suffered a broken arm and got his parole extended?  Wait a minute.  Stop the press.  Is this the same Matt Damon from The Departed?  You almost had me fooled.  Heck, I think even his one line in the movie is dialogue from The Departed, but I digress.  Let’s just say a lot of bad things happen to Matt’s character in this movie, minus Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch showing up.  So DeCosta’s wish to go to Elysium, while suffering from terminal cancer and a broken arm and all his other inflictions, pits him not only against his past, Delacourt, a girlfriend and her kid from his past, a rich business man (Fichtner), but also Agent Kruger (Copley), the protagonist of District 9.  Talk about a lot to overcome, eh?  It just all becomes a little too convenient and ridiculous at the same time if you ask me.  And you did!  Because you are reading my review.  Take that!

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So with all the lunacy that is going one thing came to my mind when watching this.  Obviously DeCosta is the main character.  But man what a selfish dick he can be.  Do I even care about him?  Is everything just too silly, pretentious and convenient for the story here?  What happened to the deep, intellectual plot that Blomkamp constructed in his previous work in District 9?  And really…Jodie Foster?  That’s all you have?  What purpose did you serve to the story?  Oh yeah…you were responsible for x, y and z.  I almost forgot.  You see, Elysium is not a bad film and I apologize for all I am doing is nitpicking on it.  It’s just not a really good film.  If you can accept all the lunacy going on here, it’s quite a remarkable piece with all the sights and sounds.  But that’s just it.  It’s style and visuals over substance here (things were pretty rad looking here and had that unmistakable Blomkamp signature look to his universe).  Plain and simple.  I just don’t care enough about Matt’s character like Blomkamp made me feel about the enslaved aliens and the protagonist’s plight in his previous work.  And speaking about his previous work, I don’t know…try as I might I just could not get into Copley as the villain here.  At first I almost didn’t recognize him, but as the movie went on he started to stick out more to me and by the end I was like…oh.  Was he the right choice?

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I have no plans on seeing Elysium again theatrically.  I was happy to have had the chance to see it early, but I’ll leave it at that.  I’m much more interested in visiting The Wolverine than seeing this a second time.  Like I said, I loved it as a way to cool off and enjoy an end of summer sci-fi action film, but it just didn’t live up to the hype of its predecessor.  Here’s hoping Blomkamp learns from his mistakes here and crafts another fine masterpiece with his eventual sequel to District 9.  I have faith in the man that he can do it.  For all those out there and intrigued by Elysium, I implore you to go out and see this one theatrically.  Your opinion may and very well could vary vastly from mine.  And I truly do hope you enjoy it.  Just don’t go in thinking this is going to blow District 9 (I hate to keep bringing this movie up) out of the water because it’s not fair to compare the two.  That’s like saying Man of Steel was as good as Nolan’s Dark Knight films.  Buzz.  Ain’t happening in this lifetime.  Go!  Get out there and see a movie.  Maybe this one?  Class dismissed.

Elysium Movie Poster


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

2 Responses to “Elysium Isn’t All That Glitters And Shines (Movie Review)”

  1. Gerard Iribe

    I think Sharlto was great as the villain.

  2. Christopher B Pilla

    Enough with guns and violence! Is this all that hollywood has anymore? Saw it and found it quite disturbing! Besides stealing the Borg implants from Star Trek!