<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Neill Blomkamp. Starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Emma Tremblay, Faran Tahir
Elysium, by director of District 9 Neill Blomkamp has something different about it but unfortunately all the good things abandon the film early on and get lost in space!
District 9 was the kind of offbeat sci-fi film that got your attention. Aliens coming to Earth but they’re the ones who are in danger. Ostracised and relegated to an area called District 9 till the world’s leaders decide what to do with them. They’re taken advantage of for human benefit and then when Wakus Van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) becomes infected with an alien virus they must provide more answers. SA Director Blomkamp of course made the film as a sort of metaphor for South African Apartheid.
The manic Sharlto Copley returns in Blomkamp’s Elysium but this time as a crazy and vicious lunatic mercenary Kruger who must capture Matt Damon’s Max Da Costa who has stolen valuable data from the brain of rich industrialist John Carlyle (William Fichtner). Okay, so I jumped ahead in the plot a bit, but you can read the plot anywhere. Fine, I’ll tell you: Earth in the ‘late’ 21st Century is basically a pile of shit (the opening sequence reminded me of some cities in India, present day!). Disease, famine and pollution have corrupted the planet and the upper 1% decides to take their money and flee to a wheel-like space station called Elysium. They leave behind the 99% though, who are not allowed to be citizens of ‘paradise’ unless they have a ticket! The ticket system is never explained.
Orphan Max has always looked up into the sky and wanted to be on Elysium, playing golf and swimming in his infinity pool, no doubt. But fate has other plans. He’s subjected to radiation at his workplace while building the same security robots that usually end up pummelling him into the ground. Irony! He has to get to Elysium where their suntan Med Beds can miraculously heal anyone of anything, with one exception that we found out at the end. Doesn’t make sense though.
Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) on Elysium shoots down any rebel Earthlings that try to enter illegally. And then I wonder who is allowed to enter? Not explained. Anyway, Delacourt of course wants supreme power and just like that the rich industrialist John Carlyle who build Elysium’s systems offers to help her become President of the resort in space. Until of course Max steals his brain data and becomes a ‘wanted’ man.
Elysium treads the same line as other post-apocalyptic films like Oblivion and After Earth. Unlike those, this premise seems a lot more interesting and it carries a social message about the haves and have-nots reflecting the trying times America and Europe are going through at the moment. This may also explain why Elysium has an Indian President: Mr Patel (Faran Tahir, ironically an American-Pakistani), no less!
What I like about Elysium is how director Blomkamp has interwoven his CGI seamlessly with the real. There’s not too much of it, the sets are very clean and in some cases very rugged but without as much green screen. The robots are super awesome. The portrayal of Elysium as Utopia may be a tad clichéd what with all the huge mansions, golf courses and swimming pools but it does come across as disturbing and surprisingly sterile and bland. What hollow lives those rich people live, we’re much better off!
But the plot holes just hit me one after another. An exoskeleton suit is surgically implanted on to Max to help him get around after his radiation exposure but when Sharlto’s Kruger suits up it’s easy-peesy. In the beginning when the first set of illegal ships approach they’re all shot down by Kruger from Earth. But at the end, ships are crash landing away with nothing stopping them. How can Elysium, a xenophobic nation, have only Kruger as their defense? Homeland security isn’t doing a good job. And if the central core computer is so important how come there are no droids there to protect it?
Jodie Foster. Wonderful Jodie Foster, why oh why… Oh it’s just a tad unbearable to watch her in this role. What’s with the strange accent? In fact so many of the characters have weird and sometimes incomprehensible accents. And in the end when Jodie’s Delacourt is on the floor with a slashed throat she refuses treatment from Max’s love interest with a sick daughter, nurse Frey (Alice Braga) by saying “No more”. ‘No more’ what? I didn’t get it. No character development!
Intriguing though its premise, Elysium fails to go anywhere but the usual. Its stark and surreal visuals still float in my head like random memory flashes beamed into my brain but I wish the film had more wow to it and more meat to a plot that is basically about making everyone equal with the push of a button! Yes, that’s the sci-fi bit.