Truth be told, I’ve been looking forward to Elysium for months. District 9 was a breath of fresh air after a seemingly endless slew of sequels, prequels and reboots. For the same reason I really wanted to watch Elysium.
For the most part, I’d say the movie works well. It’s easy to see that this was directed by the guy who helmed District 9. Though Elysium (at least half the film) is set in Los Angeles, the city depicted in this film is not dissimilar to the South African slums seen in that movie. Like District 9, Blomkamp infuses Elysium with echoes of apartheid as the poor are left to fend for themselves on a dying Earth, while the rich have sequestered themselves away on a the pristine space station known as Elysium. The contrasts are stark. The humans down below are dirty, fending for themselves. Downtrodden and sick. Meanwhile, those above have robot servants, swimming pools and medical care that can cure seemingly any ailment. Blomkamp has publicly stated that Elysium was never meant to have a political stance. However, that seems hard to believe considering his own background.
Where Blompkamp is most triumphant is in Elysium’s cinematography. The world of the 99% is superbly created. Then again, this is no surprise. District 9 was shot on a quarter of the budget and was able to achieve a similar look. Which isn’t to say that Blomkamp threw the rest of the $120,000,000 budget away on stars. No. The film is a visual feast. Everything from shots of Elysium in space, the ships, the chase sequences, all are stunning to behold.
This isn’t to say Blomkamp has sold out and gone highbrow. While it is visually stunning, there’s still plenty of gore. One character even gets his head blown apart, and then reconstructed in gory detail. Oh yes, and Sharlto Copley is in it as a scenery chewing villain. While I did begin to tire of Copley’s Kruger towards the end of the film one thing’s for sure, you could tell just how much he enjoyed playing the bad guy.
As I said, this is a Blomkamp film which means there are tons of action sequences. Because of that, the story is fairly linear. There aren’t too many surprises, and the characters are fairly black and white. Another area where the film falls down is perhaps its depiction of the futuristic elite. While the medical pods were certainly high tech, other areas of Elysium didn’t seem particularly futuristic. Additionally, there probably needed to be more thought put in to the worldbuilding on Elysium the space station, which would better explain why technology like the medical pods needed to be hoarded. Another problem is that while Elysium ends fairly happily with all of mankind automatically made citizens of Elysium, you can’t help thinking that it didn’t really solve any problems. For the time being, people are saved, but, then again, the Earth is still apparently dying so the inevitable question is… where do we go from here? Blomkamp doesn’t bother to answer this question, or even offer up a suggestion.
Still, despite its flaws, I really enjoyed Elysium. I think what Blompkamp did well in this film, he did really, really well. Though Elysium is flawed, it is still a highly enjoyable popcorn flick. And can I just say, how’s about we get Neil Blomkamp to direct a Dredd sequel, because man did Los Angeles resemble Mega-City One!