Man and machine meet in a mashup for the ages in Neil blomkamp's Elysium. But not all the critics are impressed.
The follow up to the rookie director's Oscar-nominated debut hit, District 9, his new sci-fi dystopia finds Matt Damon playing Max, a factory worker in the year 2154 looking to escape the crowded confines of an overpopulated, disease-ridden Earth.
After an industrial accident leaves him with a cancer virus that will kill him in five days, Max dons a powerful metal suit in an attempt to journey from Los Angeles to a space station named Elysium, where the one percent live a carefree existence and which holds his only hope for a cure.
Like its South Africa-set predecessor, the film is an allegory touching on such hot-button issues as immigration and health care and class warfare, but unlike District 9, not all the reviews have been glowing as Elysium has so far scored a 66 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer.
Some of the early word praises Blomkamp's mastery of visual effects and his willingness to explore serious themes in a thoughtful way, while other reviewers knock him for being too heavy-handed and resorting to standard action fare in the third act.
Here's a roundup of what the critics are saying:
• "At last, a good big film. The legacy of the summer, thus far, has been jetsam: moribund movies that lie there, bloated and beached, gasping to break even. But here is something angry and alive," offered The New Yorker. "Has Blomkamp maintained the promise, and the threat, of District 9? Not quite. He remains more gripped by setup than by resolution, and the third act of Elysium proceeds by bludgeon and blunder, leaving a wounded logic in its wake…[But] the director's fiercest gift is not to invent the future, as a plausible dream, but to report on it as if it already existed."
• "Even working within a more conventional framework, Blomkamp again proves to be a superb storyteller. He has a master's sense of pacing, slowly immersing us into his future world rather than assailing us with nonstop action, and envisioning that world with an architect's eye for the smallest details," opined Variety. "If Elysium falls short as social commentary, as entertainment it rarely falters."
• "One thing you can't deny, though, is its visual beauty, and, as in District 9, his masterful use of special effects. It's not for nothing that Blomkamp, at the tender age of 33, has been called a visionary artist of the genre," wrote the Associated Press. "If Elysium doesn't nearly live up to District 9, it shows enough panache to leave us waiting enthusiastically for his next effort."
• The Wrap gave big props to Damon's performance, noting his role often seems more physically than emotionally taxing, but he plunges into it enthusiastically."
While slamming costar Jodie Foster as the movie's villain, calling her performance "risible," the site said "as an effects-laden action piece, Elysium delivers the goods," adding that "it might not be the thinking man's fill-in-the-blank that some viewers were eagerly anticipating, but it's a solid adventure that oversells its deeper meanings."
• On the other hand, The Village Voice panned the flick, observing that while "Damon is as buff as ever…mostly, he radiates a grim world-weariness that just doesn't suit him, and it's hard to say if the movie sags around the weight of his performance or if he's just working inhumanly hard to hold this heavy-spirited picture aloft."
• "Coming in the wake of After Earth and White House Down, this marks Sony's third big-budget disappointment of the summer, the problems this time stemming from deflating final-act script problems that one would think could have been easily identified," observed The Hollywood Reporter. "This one puts rugged action and convincing visual effects at the service of a sociologically pointed haves-and-have-nots storyline, but when the air goes out of this balloon, it goes fast. There will no doubt be partisans, but an embrace by the masses will elude it."
Moviegoers will be the judge when Elysium storms theaters this Friday.