Elysium is too long and tries way too hard to be District 9.
Writer/director Neill Blomkamp’s second big-budget venture doesn’t go down nearly as easily as his first. Elysium follows Max Da Costa (Matt Damon), an ex-con who can’t catch a break. At work, he is forced into a radiation accident that will kill him in five days if he doesn’t get to the titular pay-to-play rich people utopia in the sky and its magical, Pokemon Center-esque healing pods. Moon Heights Gated Community’s genocidal secretary of defense (Jodie Foster) is also involved in this story. Kind of.
Listing the things that are bad about Elysium is as simple as listing the things that are on the screen at all.
It’s a metaphor driven movie, but all metaphors — every single one — are too obvious to be thought provoking and heavy-handed enough that they’d quell all thought anyway.
Law enforcement officials are robots? Never seen that before!
Spanish-speaking denizens of Earth slums dream only of going up to a richer land full of white people and often go there illegally for the medical care? I’m sure I don’t know of any countries that share that relationship in real life!
The dialogue and story details are bad. Blomkamp’s hectic camerawork doesn’t work for all the scenes in this movie, and during the action scenes that it will work in, he frequently and seemingly at random interrupts everything with a long slow motion shot.
The acting is almost uniformly terrible. Foster is made of plastic in her role. Sharlto Copley, known primarily as the very annoying star of District 9, is even more annoying in Elysium as a sadistic bounty hunter. He’s supposed to be sinister, but doesn’t even slightly come off that way. Damon is apparently the only competent member of the cast, and it might only be by comparison.
The film was very reliant on District 9 in its advertising campaign, and that’s the biggest clue about the ideology that went into making it. With similarly-styled content, camerawork and even prop design, Elysium is clearly supposed to be a repetition of Blomkamp’s first success.
But the problem is, though District 9 is just as heavy-handed, that film has sympathetic characters the audience can attach to. And its action sequences aren’t hatefully choppy. And its script isn’t dumb. Really any directly comparable metric is worse in Elysium than in District 9.
So… why watch Elysium?
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a staff writer for the NT Daily. He is very uncomfortable with the Fiat commercial sexualizing the American Revolution. For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for. Be sure to come back this weekend for a review of Kick-Ass 2.