Movie Review – Elysium

WARNING: Spoilers. There are plot giveaways in this review. (But nothing big so stop having a cry and read the damn review!)



IMDB Rating: 7.2 out of 10 (15,793 votes)

Director: Neill Blomkamp

The poster for Elysium.

The poster for Elysium.

Sometimes you see a film that you don’t know why you aren’t completely trashing, but you can’t bring yourself to do it. Elysium, for me, is that film. It’s largely an average summer flick at best, but maybe because it’s so similar to District 9, which I liked, I can’t say it’s downright crap.

The film does some stuff right. Matt Damon is quite good in his role as Max de Costa, a factory worker who is terminally ill; the character won’t win him any awards because it’s all a bit formulaic. Sharlto Copley is excellent as the villain of the film, Kruger, a rugged warrior willing to do anything to get his man, and a man more unpredictable than first thought, but his character has motivation issues.

Do you see where this is headed? For every positive the film has, there’s always a flip side.

The visual effects are, at time, absolutely breathtaking. Like out of this world breathtaking (get it?). But that’s only some of the time. There’s too much CGI and at times it does look cheap, unfortunately. I don’t even know how that works: how can you have great CGI and bad CGI in the same film? The soundtrack is good, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. It’s like every other action film soundtrack; it doesn’t attempt any sci-fi noises, it doesn’t try to separate itself from the pack. Instead, it just goes with the flow. The direction starts out setting the tone of the film well; it’s all shaky and misguided, and we sense Max’s panic. But then soon after, it all gets way too much. The shakey cam gets intrusive and, honestly, just bugs the crap out of you.

And now for the problems that didn’t counterpart a positive.

Jodie Foster’s role as the Elysium pres-….no, the Elysium secre-….no, the Elysium treasu-…wait, what was she again? Foster’s performance is way over the top, and unnecessarily so. She’s constantly moving her head, and every time she talks, she says things that the shape of her mouth don’t quite explain. It’s almost as if she’s being voice-overed. And at a point, she gets into this speech about her family, when really, we see her with a family for about 5 seconds of the two-hour run time.



Elysium, as a country/state/whatever-the-hell-it-was, doesn’t feel expansive at all. We only see the inner workings of it, and a few lawns, on what is supposedly a massive space structure. Sometimes long shots from the middle of space aren’t enough. Sometimes you have to show your audience just how big this thing really is. Maybe what’s missing is some scale, something to put Elysium up against.

Then there’s the ending, which all feels a little silly. It doesn’t feel like Max and Kruger are destined to meet. It doesn’t have that hightened sense of tension. It instead feels formulaic and dull; two clanking robot-men having fistacuffs. It doesn’t feel like it means anything, which is probably the worst thing of all. When a key moment of a film doesn’t mean anything, we, the viewer, is detached from the action emotionally. And without emotions, a scene is nothing.

Neill Blomkamp is a good director, there’s no doubt. The small things, like Max picking up a new gun with full ammo on his way out to battle, means he knows what he’s doing. And the tone of the film was good to start with. Shaky, unassuring, and panicked. But as said after a while, it’s too much of the shaky cam and not enough of the long shots. One action scene in particular – the scene with William Fichtner’s aircraft being shot down – is pretty poorly shot: constant cuts, and it features one of the most blatantly fake CGI pans of all time. And Elysium is also quite bloody, too. Seriously, Sharlto Copley’s face gets blown off. Is that really what we want from this type of film? Do we want a bloody, violent action film whose topic just happens to be the survival of humankind? Is that appropriate?

Elysium has a very similar theme as District 9 – the class system – and in a lot of ways, it’s the same film. But in it’s own ways, it’s not the same; it cost $85 Million more, it’s nearly entirely CGI, and honestly, it’s not nearly as clean or as direct as District 9. That’s a shame, because Elysium had a great chance to give us a riveting social commentary and interesting story. But instead, it lacks in every sense. Elysium is one of the more average films of the year. Whether you’re into mediocrity, that’s for you to decide.

MY RATING: 5.5 out of 10.

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4 responses to “Movie Review – Elysium

  1. Sums up my thoughts too. Cool story, but the movie was a hot mess. Lacking focus and substance.

  2. Foster’s performance was very weird. But that aside, everything else was pretty solid, in terms of the look and feel of the scientific future Blomkamp had laid out. Can’t wait to see what he has built up for us next, as it seems like he’s continuing to chose better and better material to work with, even if it his own. Good review Elroy.

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