Now Playing: ‘Elysium’ Less Than Heavenly

With ‘District 9‘, Neill Blomkamp quickly became one of my favorite directors. He not only created a realistic world infested with aliens, the film’s acting, action and politically-conscious story were nothing short of excellent. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about his second feature, ‘Elysium’. While the sci-fi flick has some good moments, it’s mostly wasted on lackluster storytelling.

In the year 2154, Earth has become overpopulated. People live in filth, work for crime lords, and are desperate to find food or healthcare. Meanwhile, just a stone’s throw away is a giant space station called Elysium, where the wealthy live in huge mansions surrounded by golf courses and oversized pools. More importantly, in every home is a machine that can fix any health issue, including cancer, severed limbs, old age and even death. Yes, residents of Elysium can live forever. Of course, the poor people on Earth don’t have access to these machines.

The story follows Max (Matt Damon), a factory worker hoping for a shot to go to Elysium some day. After an accident exposes him to deadly radiation, Max learns that he only has five days to live. Desperate to get to one of those healing machines on Elysium, he enlists the help of a crime boss, who outfits him with a mechanical exoskeleton that gives him super strength. Elsewhere, Delacourt (Jodie Foster), one of the executives running Elysium, is charged with keeping the people of Earth from entering the space station, even if that means killing children. She’s even hired a sadistic killer (Sharlto Copley) on Earth to help her with this job. Now, it’s up to Max to save himself as well as the people of Earth.

One of the main problems with ‘Elysium’ is its story structure. We don’t spend enough time with Damon’s character to really connect with him. He doesn’t seem like a particularly great guy, and his full back story is never truly revealed. Instead, we’re rushed into action scene after action scene. The third act falls apart with too many things going on at once, and wraps up with a half-assed ending that could have been much more powerful.

The visuals and design are of course top-notch. The futuristic cars, robotic police officers and Elysium itself look phenomenal. Damon does a decent job, but seems a bit one-note. Copley makes a great bad guy, even if his accent is hard to understand at times. But then there’s Jodie Foster. Good grief. She deserves a Razzie Award for this performance. It’s downright laughable and almost ruins the movie completely.

Other than a few decent fight scenes and some amazing visual effects, ‘Elysium’ loses interest quickly and fails to be very fun or entertaining. Yes, we get that Blomkamp wants to make a political message about free universal healthcare and the wrongs of the class system, but there are better ways to tell that story.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆


    • EM

      I suspect all movies I’ve not yet seen might not be very good…that way, I can be pleasantly surprised from time to time. 🙂

  1. cyrollan

    i suspected this. let’s face it: the movie’s entire plot (which could have been thought up by a 12-year old) is revealed in the trailer.

    they could have at least hid most of the plot from us on said trailers!

  2. Mike

    For me at least i never judged based on a review though it gives you an insight on what to expect. I for one didn’t like District 9 so my thoughts on seeing Elysium iffy ,but it’s a good review.

    • EM

      Every Elysium review I’ve encountered thus far praises District 9 but pans Elysium as fraught with poor structure, overly broad and shallow characterization, and maladroit proselytization…which confuses me, since I thought District 9 had exactly the same problems.

  3. boguspomp

    Hello there,

    Just came back from the movie and yes, it is a total mess! Besides poor storyline and bad acting, I hated the continuously shaking camera!!!! I know its the new thing, but to this extend?
    IMHO 1 out of 5, total waste of time and money. And why did we watch it in this new Super Dolby Atmos? Didn’t make any difference.

  4. From the trailer and reviews, I gather it’s the old “barbarians assault the castle” storyline.

    Once the poor people gain access to and overrun Elysium, then what? Are they capable of even maintaining it, much less running it properly?

    What do you get when the hoards seize control of a well-functioning civilization? Detroit. Camden. Newark.

    Can you blame Elysium for seeking to defend itself? Not worth 9 bucks to me to find out, that’s for sure.

  5. Loved it and completely and utterly disagree here, cant believe what all of you are saying about this, I honestly expected a lot of praise coming in to read this review and the comments and it disappoints me that people think this film is a complete mess.

    I’m Sorry but Blomkamp makes Scifi better than anyone else going right now (except for maybe Nolan) and this was no exception, District 9 was phenomenal and so was this, I was just blown away here from beginning to end. I would easily see this a few times at the theater if I could do so, I cant recommend it enough, especially if you are a fan of District 9.

    • Ryan

      I’m with you. I really liked the movie. The action was amazing, it had a decent amount of emotion, and great music too. I would have really enjoyed having another 20 or so minutes so we could delve even deeper in the world they set up….maybe we’ll get a director’s cut one day.
      Some of it was overly simplistic plot-wise…but to say it was a mess is ridiculous.
      I also don’t understand the people saying it was humorless. I found myself laughing or smiling quite often (though, I do admit that sometimes over-the-top violence fills me with a certain kind of giddiness).

    • Really? Whatever you say, who else is putting out quality Scifi like this? Besides Oblivion I cant think of anything else I’ve seen thats been better than Elysium this year, Oblivion was good stuff IMO but still didnt touch this.

      • EM

        Perhaps an analogy will help you here. Two restaurant patrons order two different meals. Patron #1 immediately feels queasy; within half an hour he is upchucking violently; then for the rest of the evening and the following day he experiences fever, convulsions, delirium, and weakness, but he eventually makes a full recovery. Patron #2 is less lucky: he has similar symptoms, but they do not abate so quickly, and he requires surgery resulting in lifelong use of a colostomy bag, and he also lost all sense of taste and smell. Now, while it’s true patron #1’s meal was better than #2’s, neither meal was good. Understand?

        • LOL, so now you are comparing two great Scifi flicks to an essentially poisoned meal for a couple of people? Not even going to continue with a conversation here, I understand what you mean but its obvious you arent a Scifi fan or you are one but have no idea what you are talking about

          • EM

            I’m not aware of any “great sci-fi flicks” having been named here; I was attempting to explain how better isn’t necessarily all that good. I am a sci-fi fan in the sense of an enthusiast, not in the sense of a literal fanatic with impaired powers of critical thinking. As for lobbing accusations of sheer ignorance, I recommend you try to first find a window amid those glass walls before you throw any stones.

  6. John

    A 2?! Wow, I thought this was great. I guess you can’t follow a movie if you thought too many things going on at once.

  7. Ricardo

    I watched Elysium over the weekend and I loved it! Great sci-fi! Can’t wait to have the blu-ray disc.

  8. #1_EU_Mofo

    Listen up my main m%$&*$f#^*@#%s. I come from FRANCE, do you even understand? I was not appreciative of how the EVIL LADY (famous, forget name) is up in space doing BAD THINGS, but talking in FRANCE! Why would she [do this?]. Let me make something “str8” – many French people are very nice and do not blow up poor in space – I guarantee this. Now every1 will think this is cases. Complely (UNFAIR). Bad rap like this make me and people of my SICK (with vomit). Truth. Stop the LIEING!