Neil Blomkamp, won my respect back in 2009 with District 9. A movie that looked high budget, but compared to modern day standards was shot for a mere pittance. The movie was fun, and I never found myself getting bored with what was going on. Then, there was the 4 year drought. Nothing new, just me watching the "District 9" Blu-Ray over and over.
Then I heard about "Elysium", almost completely by accident. Well, truth be told a friend mentioned it in passing, and then, I just had to look into it. The trailer had the same feel that had drawn me in to "District 9" . It had a wonderful duality to it, the dark, grungy look of Earth, and the clean pristine look of Elysium. Once I saw that trailer, I knew I had to see the movie.
What can I say about this movie? The movie splits humanity into essentially two groups; the haves, and the have nots. The rich and privileged live a life of luxury up on Elysium, where there is no disease, because there are machines that can cure them. They do not need to work, because that's what the people on Earth or for. Those privileged few that do have to occasionally make trips down to Earth are so full of themselves, they do not want the people on the planet to even breath in their direction. Meanwhile, the people of Earth toil away living in poverty, struggling to make ends meet, while they have the constant reminder of Elysium's existence, hovering in the sky far overhead. Honestly, that all played out like a rather acerbic social commentary, a sort of condemnation of the current societal trends played out in big budget science fiction movie.
While I could sit there and harp on the perceived social commentary, I will push forward.
The movie looks fantastic. As I previously stated, they go to great lengths to visually separate Earth and Elysium. Practically every surface on Earth is covered in dirt and filth, that includes the people. Big cities have been reduced to shanty towns, beggars and miscreants run rampant in the streets, The only jobs that appear to exist on Earth are factory work, medical work, and crime syndicate. Law enforcement is handled by robots. Parole officers... also robots. Even some of the medical work, appears to be handled by robots! All they needed was Hayden Christensen, and Kristen Stewart in there, and the acting could have been done by robots as well!
So yes, visually stunning. How does the story hold up, though? I'm not ready for that just yet.
I have to complain about the cameras. As I do every time a fight sequence becomes a muddled mess of bouncing cameras and rapidly changing angles. This movie could not do an action shot without the camera having a grand mal seizure. At times, I wondered if this was shot as part of a Parkinson's disease work therapy program. However, I have harped on that topic enough in other reviews, on to the story.
The story is simple enough. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy gets separated from girl, boy steals cars, boy goes to prison, boy ends up with a robotic exoskeleton grafted on to his body so he can save the world. You know, it's practically the same plot as every single Shakespearean play. Oh yeah, and somewhere in there, girl has a kid, and kid ends up with terminal cancer. This is not a spoiler, this is all information that can be gleaned from the various trailers, or the first 5 minutes of the movie... except maybe the cancer part. So... Surprise! The story is a little slow. With some parts dragging out, telling things with a lot of seemingly pointless exposition, then delivering some cool sci-fi action, and then returning to lengthy exposition. When all is said and done, it is still a fun enough movie. There is a sort of odd moment in the middle of the movie, where there is an odd little story about a meerkat and a hippo. The story seemed a little out of place, while also feeling entirely appropriate. I suppose I would have been more accepting if that meerkat had befriended a warthog.
RECOMMENDATION: If you are looking for some sci-fi action with a lot less lens flare, this is a great little piece. It tries to balance the serious moments with some larger-than-life action, and doesn't do it too terribly bad. So yes, if you are looking for a sci-fi fix this weekend, check it out!
IS IT THEATER WORTHY: Considering the lightness of the action, the film rarely has that in-your-face moment that makes the theatrical experience so worthwhile. However, it is a fun film to see on the big screen. So, if you have a theater that offers cheap tickets, definitely take a moment and check it out!
FINAL THOUGHTS: While this movie did not have the same magic that made me love "District 9", it still had enough fun moments that I do not regret seeing it. Should money magically appear in my wallet, I would not mind seeing this film again.
FINAL SCORE: 8 out of 10