It is very evident when viewing this film that it is an attempt to recreate the success of District 9. As with District 9 this film has a beautifully disgusting dystopian world that it is set in and it drips with detail and grim. The style of this film is no doubt one of it's primary strengths with the sci-fi toned with gritty realism. To any fan of this genre this is no doubt a must see film as it is filled with unique ideas of technology with sci-fi guns, robots, and exo-suits. However the similarities to District 9 are more then skin deep as this film also attempts to delve into human mentality, loss of morality, and compassion.
This film soon hits it's weak point though: the story. This films lacks well developed characters leading to it being difficult to properly feel immersed or put ourselves in the position of our heroes. They attempt to over compensate for this by having a truly evil villain however he ends up coming across as a two dimensional cardboard cutout of a character. And with such bland characters the story is flimsy at best as it attempts to show us human extremes but this falls short when blunt symbolism hits us over and over again.
Overall this film is an unfortunate let down. Hopefully the director's work will return to form as this feature is has a lot of style with almost no substance and a nealry complete lack of humanity.
Star - Matt Damon
Genre - Action
Run Time - 109 minutes
Certificate - 18R
Country - USA
Awards - 5 Nominations
Amazon - £3.99 DVD (£15.25 Blue Ray)
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Since Matt Damon sloped off from the Bourne franchise he has never really given a reason why. He was never typecast as Bourne as he is rare actor able to jump from action hero to romantic lead, politics to cerebral and so could have stuck it out. Little Jeremy Renner is just not the same as JB, and judging by Damon's movie picks since; he hasn't really distanced himself from Bourne with a stand out movie. Ever since his breakthrough role in Goodwill Hunting that second Oscar has actually drifted further away (he shared one with Ben Affleck for the GWH screenplay). At the moment he has gone all Sean Penn and spends most of his time at the United Nations trying to fix the world he has spent his career blowing up! He does seem a very laidback guy when you see him interviewed and he did spend four years at Harvard and so the more important things in life a responsibility he feels he has to take on with his clout and celebrity but apart from his notable camp performance in Behind the Candelabra alongside Michael Douglas as Liberace (it was a TV movie so not eligible for the Oscars) he hasn't really troubled the scorers, Damon's career right now reminiscent of an opening batsmen blocking at the crease. When he does sci-fi action movies like Elysium he may as well be doing the next Bourne Movie.
But we are here for Elysium and the follow up movie from director Neil Blonkamp of the fabulous District 9, again mixing his experiences of the apartheid South Africa with his beloved science fiction dystopian futures, here the year of 2154, the same year as the dreadful Avatar. Although mostly shot in a slum on the edge of Mexico City it looks and feels very similar to District 9 on similar themes of poverty, apartheid and discrimination. Damon was actually third choice for the lead role here behind rap stars 'Ninja' from South Africa and Eminem, who would only do it if it was shot in his native Detroit.
Matt Damon ... Max
Jodie Foster ... Delacourt
Sharlto Copley ... Kruger
Alice Braga ... Frey
Diego Luna ... Julio
Wagner Moura ... Spider
William Fichtner ... John Carlyle
Brandon Auret ... Drake
Josh Blacker ... Crowe
Emma Tremblay ... Matilda
Jose Pablo Cantillo ... Sandro
Maxwell Perry Cotton ... Young Max
Faran Tahir ... President Patel
In the 22nd Century the world is an over populated arid cesspit with the people living in shacks and mega cities. The 00.1% elite live luxuriously 400 miles above Earth in a giant rotating space station city called Elysium (heaven: in Greek mythology, the home of the blessed after death), a powerful gravitational shield allowing green vegetation and grand avenues, a Manhattan in the sky.
Back on scorched Earth and ex con Max (Matt Damon) lives in the ghettoes of what's left of Los Angeles and always one parolee violation away from losing his job in a grim industrial factory so returned to jail, order on Earth kept by machines and rather stern androids, Robocop style. Everyone's dream is to escape the poverty and get to Elysium one day with local criminals running illegal space shuttles up to the station in the hope they can gain refugee status. But what the trafficked humans don't know is the authoritarian Madame Delacourt (Jodie Foster), who runs Elysium on behalf of the Amadyne Corporation, has no qualms in making sure no interlopers breech the barriers and shoots down the ships full of mostly women and kids. They risk everything to take the deadly trips as Elysium has medical pods able to cure any illness they or their family have.
Max, however, has no intentions of going to Elysium and has recently met up with his childhood friend Frey (Alice Braga), hoping to rekindle a romance a pretty nurse and, that is, until, he suffers a near fatal accident at the factory, a deadly blast of radiation meaning he has just 5 days to live. Frey tries to help him but they know he is doomed on Earth and so Max has to call in a favor with his old partner in crime Spider (Wagner Moura) to get him to Elysium and the med pods. But he has to pay like everyone else for the chicken run and so agrees to do one last job for smuggler Spider. To do this job he has to boost his decaying strength and body fried by the radiation and take on a painful operation to be part of a metal spinal frame that implants into the back of his brain and back. His mission is to download the keys to Elysium in his head by capturing Amadyne Corporation boss Drake (Brandon Auret) and his laptop during his visit to Earth on business.
So time for the Amadyne Corporation to deploy their number one asset on Earth to take out Max and Spiders crew of crooks, deadly bounty hunter Kruger (Sharlto Copley), a man who doesn't do subtle niceties with his cool array of weapons and munitions. Let the battle begin.
Good stuff and although not a patch on the originality of his first film I did get enough from this to recommend it, although it will end up just another special effects Sc-Fi film at the end of the day. As he did with District 9, Blonkamp grounds his sci-fi thriller in present-day society, telling a story that resonates with a strong political kick from his native South Africa. It again looks visually distinctive and the majestic space station reminiscent of Kubrick's Space Odyssey masterpiece, clearly paying homage to, the giant wheel a second moon high in the sky that offers false hope to those on the dyeing Earth. It's not really made clear in the film why the same rich corporations can't build a similar high security walled compound on Earth far cheaper but we will let Blonkamp off on that one.
The director's signature special effects and funky munitions keep the film moving forward nicely with all manner of guns, grenades and mines for Sharlto Copley's psychotic character to play with, Damon doing the best he can to keep the tension of the chase high as Kruger kicks him up the bum. The love interest only contrives to slow and contort the film down and so not needed.
It was an expensive movie to make at $115 million dollars and so a risk but doing $286 million back so all ending well. Clearly District 9 impressed many and they fully supported his expectantly inferior second effort but the money well spent. His movies special effects and look and feel are unique to the action Sci-Fi genre and I'm already looking forward to the next one. The only downside would be that pretty much anyone could have played the Matt Damon character and so Sharlto Copley takes over the show with his cartoonesque video game character with the funny South African hybrid accent. The ending is a first for both Matt Damon and Jodie Foster on screen as our hero and villain face a rare fete, always a good sign the actors want to work with the up and coming director rather than the other way around.
Imdb.com - 6.7/10.0 (189,345votes)
Rottentomatos.com - 68% critic's approval
Metacriitc.com - 61%critic's approval
---Collaboration: Casting to Perfection on Elysium---
We meet the cast & crew behind the scenes and explore what the films themes are about.
---Engineering Utopia: Operating a society in the sky---
A look at the 2001: Space Odyssey style space station and special effects.
This is London -'Just as the creation of a future nightmare, one that disturbingly resembles the world we already know, Elysium is masterful - definitely worth seeing.
Electric Sheep -'A project over-designed yet under-thought'.
Daily Express -'It's great to watch an original blockbuster with some ideas in its head'.
Little White Lies -'A confident sidestep from District 9 rather than an ambitious leap forward, Elysium confirms Blomkamp as an expert genre director. Question is now: can he become more?'
The Times -'Neill Blomkamp cements his science-fiction credentials as a filmmaker with a genre vision the likes of which we haven't seen since the socially conscious SF of the 1970s.'.
The Memphis Times -'[Blomkamp] really needs to learn that too much action blunts his more interesting statements'.
Film4.com -'Visually stunning and with flashes of inspired genius, Elysium shows promise but is let down by an uneven structure, weak characterization and an over-reliance on extended fight scenes.
Elysium is the brand new movie from the director of "District 9", Neill Blomkamp.
-- Synopsis --
In the year 2154, two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live in a mad-made space station called Elysium. Elysium is a place where all cancers can be cured within a few seconds, artificial weather and gardens make it the perfect place for the rich to live. The rest of the population live on a over-populated Earth. With pollution and other problems at an all time high, Max (Matt Damon) agrees to take on a life threatening mission, one that can bring equality to both worlds. With the threats from Earth, Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) must take drastic measures to preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium.
-- Cast --
The only well known actors / actresses in this movie are Jodie Foster, Matt Damon and up and coming actor Sharlto Copley (District 9). The rest are pretty much unknowns. There are some Brazilian, Spanish and Mexico actors all throughout the movie I've never saw from anywhere else.
-- General thoughts --
If you're a fan of District 9, you'll love this. It follows the same sort of lines. Not with the story, but the general detail that goes into the robots and special effects. Although this does have a slightly bigger budget than District 9 did. So it does seem and look a bit more polished.
The majority of the movie is filmed within the southern states of U.S and Mexico. With some other scenes filmed in Canada.
The one surprising thing I liked about this movie was the soundtrack. I think the music was created by someone called Ryan Amon. Very original and I will not be surprised if it wins some sort of soundtrack award.
The acting for the main characters is average to say the least. Not one of Matt Damon's or Jodie Foster's best performances. But this is expected for a adrenaline fuelled sci-fi action movie I guess. Although I thought some of the smaller roles did a great job though for their part.
With so many action scenes, It's quite difficult to tell what's special effects and what's real. The robots in this movie look pretty real and I would be surprised if these were special effects.
If you're not a fan of swearing, or find the F word offensive. This may not be the movie for you. The F word is used in every other sentence. Sharlto Copley's language throughout is pretty awful to say the least.
There have been many critics who have interpreted this movie as a left wing screed, but it could be easily seen as a right wing pamphlet, in which the end of civilization is blamed at the uncontrolled influx of immigrants. But in the end it's only a movie. It does have certain amount of similarities throughout the movie to the world we live in today. Like computers more or less ruling everything and rising unemployment rates. What I did notice about the movie is that there were many different languages spoken throughout. Such as South African, American, English, Spanish, French, etc. The main villain (Sharlto Copley) has quite a broad South African accent, which can make it difficult to understand sometimes.
Overall, I enjoyed it. There's action from the very start to the very end.
If I had to compare it to another Hollywood movie, it would probably be Transformers. Just for the amount of stuff going on. I like this, but because of all the action scenes and CGI, we don't really get to find out that much about the characters within the movie.
When I first saw District 9 I left the cinema feeling a bit weird and a bit disturbed, but ultimately entertained by what I saw. Elysium is no different and the look and feel of the film, even if you have not seen District 9, feels very similar.
Neil Bloomkamp delivers again with the wildly grimy and dystopian look at the future, although just as District 9 dealt with the issue of people and land displacement in a country getting to know itself again, Elysium deals with the ideas of socio-economic immigration and specifically medical immigration.
In 2153 the world has become polluted, vastly overpopulated and rife with crime, most of the population still live on earth unable to afford the unobtainable wealth required to live on Elysium, a vast spacecraft just off of earths orbit, which aside from looking like something from 2001 a space Odyssey is paradise in every sense of the word. Back on earth only those hard workers who kid themselves and work long and hard to pay for a ticket and those who try to board Elysium illegally on stowaway refugee craft attempt to make the jump. Those who try the latter are normally shot down or are caught quickly and deported straight back to earth...the idea for them is to reach a medipod in time to heal almost any and all diseases before they are apprehended.
Our protagonist is Max de Costa , max Damon, who doesn't do a bad job, a man with a shady past of low level crime, he has the contacts but wants to go straight trying to work for the money to get him onto Elysium, except its slow progress and in desperation Max finds himself having to fix a piece of machinery or lose his job, he gets irradiated and now has 5 days to live- so max turns to his old crime buddies to secure an illegal ticket, except he has to do a job for them first- kidnap an Elysium citizen , played coldly and robotically by the ever great William Fichter, the job goes wrong and Max finds himself in possession of some serious data.
Enter Kruger, played disturbingly effectively by Sharlto Copley , as in Vickers in in District 9, he is no longer the 'sweetyman', sharlto has buffed up and bearded up to look like a complete nutcase mercenary working for Secretary Delacouix (Jodie foster, who excels in her role as power greedy politician)- sent to deliver max`s head and all the data in it we get a great fugitive race in the middle of the film. Some thick Safa accents in this film meant I found it hard to understand everything that was being said, but I also think it added to the uneasiness of the situation and made it sound more freaky.
The first 40 mins and last half an hour are great Sci-fi, some amazing CGI and effects, great concepts, seen before like robo-police , but well delivered.,...some nasty death scenes , so its not ET ! and some great camera effects for the fights. The film tails off a little in the middle and you get the inevitable love interest, but generally the action is thick and fast.