A review of film Elysium by auteur Neill Blomkamp who brought us the critically acclaimed District 9

A rich wealthy set live in a space station in the sky and a poor set live on a dirty, poverty stricken and polluted earth but want to join the world in the sky. (SPOILER ALERT)

First the world – Elysium is clean and white with spooky inhabitants from a Stepford Wives Marriott Hotel holiday advertising campaign. Earth is full of dirty foreign language speaking people be they criminals or workers facing poverty. Both Elysium and Earth are manned by robots. In Elysium, robots serve and protect people. On Earth, robots victimise and control humans. Beyond this, we know nothing about the robots who have no real role. All Earth humans are united by their desire to go to Elysium even though they are illegal and end up either being killed or deported. Why still a popular destination you ask? Apart from it being a holiday resort. Elysium has this medical gadget that can cure anything. Yes, I mean anything and a lot of people on Earth including the hero need this gadget and this essentially makes up the emotional objectives for Elysium’s plot. In sci-fi, audiences are accustomed to ideas from great films being recycled but really desire upcycling. This is where great ideas are transformed into something new because they are used in an unexpectedly imaginative way that is relevant to a film’s unique plot and characters. Elysium itself is a mishmash of recycled Kubrick’s 2001’s space station, Verhoeven’s Robocop, Star Trek and The Matrix which identifies the difference between the clean sanitised fabricated world created by the agents set against the stark existence of the humans. Both the world of Earth and Elysium recycle ideas from these films but lacks believability because it resorts to sudden introductions of circumstances to aid its plot rather than developing and revealing a richer whole.

Second, the plot and characters (the show not tell) – At the outset, Matt Damon who plays the hero Max De Costa is needlessly attacked by a robot who behaves suspiciously like a human being rather than a machine. Max hurts his wrist and goes to hospital where he comes across childhood sweetheart Freya who looks down on him because he is a blue collar worker. The love relationship or even affection between Freya and Max is not believable and is later highlighted through tattoos. The inciting incident involves the hero stupidly walking into getting a massive radiation hit which means he needs to be cured by the miracle medical gadget and the nurse girl he seems to love has a daughter with leukemia who also needs to be cured. The hero selfishly only thinks about curing himself and Freya selfishly only thinks about her daughter. But they both need to go to Elysium. Convenient. The hero also has a friend who does a lot for him but we know nothing about him or their relationship other than some random statements about stealing cars. He dies so no need to worry about him. Jodie Foster plays Secretary Delacourt on Elysium. Delacourt pats rich children, hands out gifts and has a litany of empty statements to explain villainous acts as a quasi-military leader. Delacourt justifies ordering the murder of earth civilians trying to get on to Elysium by asking the local president if he has kids? Oh yes, if I had kids, I would definitely recommend blowing up people but hey if I didn’t have kids, I might say don’t blow up people. This requires further thought I think. Secretary Delacourt is not developed and neither is her appearance. A military leader who wears short hair and loose fitting Giorgio Armani suits. She also seems to have an out of the blue character change nearing death. I am not sure what the change is but it is undeveloped. Both Matt Damon and Jodie Foster are wasted in this film.

Many of the characters are undeveloped, inconsistent or switch roles and traits for no real reason. On Elysium, the wealthy appear to do little other than be girls in a swimsuits sipping cocktails in a pad by a pool or be near girls in swimsuits but do occasionally allow the military genocidal leader to give gifts to their children. Basically, there is no difference between the people of Elysium and Earth – they are all out for themselves and therein lies the problem. On earth, there is a character called Spider who everyone thinks you should avoid. Spider is a gangster, no sorry he is a trafficker, no sorry he is a hacker, no sorry he is a revolutionary. Spider suggests a revolutionary idea called equality. So a confused criminal gangster/trafficker/hacker/revolutionary not the hero introduces the major change in the Elysium’s plot. The idea only sees the light of the day due to circumstances not real choices made by Max, the hero. This is because Max does not have higher ideals other than saving himself and regularly having boring fights with a psychopathic mercenary killer Kruger played by Sharlto Copley until the end. Max also dies pointlessly despite the existence of the miracle medical gadget. The hero’s sacrifice helps everyone to finally become a member of Elysium. Prefer to die?

Recommended script change – Spider and Max should have both been involved in getting people to Elysium. Spider does it for money but Max wants to stop the pointless deaths and deportations of the masses on earth because each attempt has failed. His love for Freya and her daughter and people in general force him to get up there to sacrifice himself to stop more people from needlessly dying. This would mean very few changes to the present story but it would mean the hero has pronounced values and emotional objectives with a plot that conflicts with the material objectives of Spider and the as yet undefined Elysium citizens.

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3 thoughts on “A review of film Elysium by auteur Neill Blomkamp who brought us the critically acclaimed District 9

  1. It’s so funny how many people (like me) paid money for this movie and then hated it, but somehow we still went to go see it. There’s a movie in there somewhere, I’m sure. We’re huge fans of District 9 so maybe this director gets a free pass this time on this one, at least as far as our wallets are concerned, but he’ll have to work double time to regain our trust on the next one. If you get a chance, check out my review on my fledgling site Amerikan Movie Kritik: http://amerikanmoviekritik.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/elysium/ (I need to work on my catchy post titles there). I hope you enjoy.

    I’m learning a lot from your site and, especially if I keep up my review site, will be coming back after my posts to see what you have to say. Everybody is talking about replacing Ebert. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but I don’t think Ebert ever did what sites like this do.( I never liked dray white wine too much. I prefer a nice red or even a beer with friends.) Cheers.

    • Thanks for the further updates. As you may have guessed, I’ve been off-line for what seems like an eternity but I’m back and look forward to reading more of your reviews too.

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