Elysium (2013) Review

POSTERS Elysium 61cmx91cm: Amazon.co.uk: Kitchen & Home

After the fantastic work that Neill Blomkamp did creating a believable and immersive world with District 9, you would be forgiven for having high hopes for a futuristic, dystopian world that he can build from the ground up. Unfortunately, as much as there are some great ideas and a very good concept at the core of Elysium, it never manages to throw off the more generic science-fiction shackles.

It starts very strongly. A classic tale of the poor and rich divide, this time in the form of a space station called Elysium that offers cures for everything while the vast majority of the population live in poverty, on an Earth which has become vast desert land. Again, this has been done before but Blomkamp manages to add original elements, from a medical machine to cure all, through to robot security which can detect sarcasm and threats, down to the main MacGuffin of the movie, a chip inside the brain which when hacked into the Elysium main-frame, will make it possible for everyone to access.

The Epic Disappointments of 'Elysium' - The Atlantic
Damon feels strangely miscast

This brings with it Matt Damon. Damon has demonstrated his action credibility before and handles himself well in the Bourne movies but his character is supposed to be a jaded, thug-like ex-con and Damon is too charming to carry that off. The type of brute action hero he is supposed to be here, more like a brunt force instrument, doesn’t suit the actor and it never truly convinces.

Nor does the central plot. The idea of Damon sneaking on to Elysium to save himself and bring about change has potential but it never fully realises it. There are moments that work, like a confrontation with two robots after Damon has had body-altering surgery or a daring attempt to break into Elysium that is a very thinly veiled metaphor for some current countries attitudes to immigration, but these are stuck between much more generic science-fiction moments.

Elysium': Inside the Visual Effects | Hollywood Reporter
The inventive elements of Elysium become lost

Which brings the other issue with Elysium, as great as the science-fiction set-pieces are, we have seen them all before. It falls into the generic, space and computers, countdowns and sacrifices plot points which plenty of movies have already given us and in a lot of cases, better. Anyone who has seen their fair share of sci-fi will be able to guess where certain parts of the plot go with little effort.

There are some small saving graces. Jodie Foster is great as the overarching villain but finds herself under-used considering what she can add to any movie. Sharlto Copley joins up with Blomkamp once again and gives an entirely different performance to what we saw in District 9 which steals the whole movie and adds some much needed excitement and originality to some of the more generic moments.

Overall, Elysium has its moments and some of the creative spark which made Blomkamp such an exciting writer/director are present but they get lost in an all too generic sci-fi movie. Some casting is inspired, like Foster and Copley, but Damon struggles to fill the action role he is given because he can’t shake his charm.

Rating – 3

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

Film Review - Elysium | The MacGuffin
A missed opportunity with plenty of potential

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2 thoughts on “Elysium (2013) Review

  1. I’ve only seen this once, which was when it came out. I gave it 3.5 out of 5.
    My over riding memory of it is that I came out of the screen feeling utterly depressed. From memory I think it was because I felt like this wealth divide was very realistic and could happen when we colonise space.
    I’ll give it another go at some point.

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