Elysium is the sophomore picture from director Neill Blomkamp, and if you’ve never seen his first film, District 9, and you’re about to go and see Elysium then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it a fair bit and you’ll have a great time. However, if you have seen District 9 and you’re about to go and see Elysium, then you might be a little bit disappointed. Not massively under-whelmed, but maybe just a little bit… oh. I mean, you might be left wanting a little bit more, that’s all.
District 9 is/was a gritty allegory on the apartheid regime in South Africa of recent history. Yes, it had aliens. But the message and story was clear; and it was a revelation. Elysium on the other hand also deals with segregation, of a sort. This time it’s the poor and lower classes that are dealt the bum hand with a lack of decent housing and – at the main crux of the film – medical care. Blomkamp shows us what could be our future. In some ways it already is (and he agrees).
Matt Damon plays Max, a blue-collar guy with an aggressive history and, after a rather grim work-place accident, a fairly short future. To get fixed, he needs to get the best medical care. The best medical care isn’t available on Earth, it can only be found on the orbiting space station for the upper classes – Elysium. Onboard, Jodie Foster rules with an iron first and she is not a fan of (amongst other things) unwanted visitors from Earth. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work what happens next but, nevertheless, it’s still quite fun watching how it plays out.
Sharlto Copley (star of D9, and also Howling Mad Murdoch in the A-Team film a while back) turns up, as a bad-ass sleeper agent, and really throws the cat amongst the pigeons. Creepy, dark, and murderous – Copley brings believability to what could be a one note and one dimensional bit part character.
But look, I know I started off saying that Elysium isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, and I stand by that. On its own, Elysium is a fairly decent sci-fi flick that ticks a good few entertaining boxes while casting an interesting light over the discrepancies between the rich and the poor. The problem is: I can’t see Elysium as a film on its own. It is forever going to be in the shadow of District 9.
I mean, the opening shots, the scenery, the robotics, the cinematography – all of it, you may as well be watching District 9 again. Hell, they could even be set in the same universe – and that’s no bad thing. Except, when District 9 blew me away I hoped and hoped and hoped that Elysium would too. It didn’t.
I’m not in the habit of giving scores for films that I see but, if pressed, I’d give Elysium a 7/10. It’s not terrible. But if I had to see anything again at the weekend I’d probably pick something else.