After ‘District 9’ gained a ton of buzz when it opened in 2009, the world anxiously awaited director Neill Blomkamp’s next project. Now four years later, his sophomore effort ‘Elysium’ has finally hit theaters and his audience can see if he was just a one hit wonder or a hit-making machine.
Set in the year 2159, ‘Elysium’ takes place in a world where the Earth has become overpopulated, extremely polluted, and ridden with diseases. But the planet’s upper class found a way out by retreating to the state of the art man-made space station that is free from the hardships of their forgotten planet below, including all sickness. When Max DeCosta gets radiation poisoning, he makes it his last mission to get to Elysium at all costs to save his life. However, when presented with the opportunity to help out more people than just himself, Max suddenly has more riding on this mission than just his life.
Science fiction always has a message. Whether if it addresses racism, segregation, or the right to love whoever you want to love, the genre lends itself perfectly to storytellers who want to convey that message. But sometimes a message can be overdone. For instance, in ‘The Happening’, we get that pollution and global warming is bad. Similarly with ‘Elysium’, the message of the movie becomes loud and clear early on, then keeps driving the point home. Blomkamp definitely had something to say in ‘District 9’ as well, but I feel like he was more subtle about saying it in his debut feature as opposed to this one.
Aside from carrying over his uncanny character designs and incredible CGI action into his second film, which was admittedly upped this time around, Blomkamp also brought actor Sharlto Copley along for the ride. It’s a shame that he didn’t get top billing though because he was one of the best parts of the film for me. Jodie Foster, who doesn’t appear as prominently as one would think, gets her name on the poster, yet the amazingly talented Copley, who arguably stole the show as Agent Kruger, was omitted. This was a very different role than we’ve seen him take on before and he managed to show that he has a pretty great range in terms of acting ability. One of these days, he’s sure to get more recognized because he’s definitely going places. After seeing him play the antagonist in this film, I’m more excited to see him take on the villainous role in Spike Lee’s ‘Oldboy’ later this year.
Overall, ‘Elysium’ had a lot of heart, but it was trying so hard to live up to the quality of the far superior ‘District 9’ that it mostly fell flat. Visually, the film is definitely on par with what the director has done previously, despite a few jarring moments from too much shakey cam, but the plot just doesn’t seem to hold up as well as it should. The subtext being far from simply insinuated was a pretty big problem too. It’s a pretty bad thing when I became more entertained by the idea that the world of ‘Elysium’ could be the same world that came before ‘Wall-E’ rather than giving my full attention to the movie. (Seriously, it’s a fun theory to think about on the drive home from the theater.)