High above the clouds (like outside Earth's atmosphere high), life is better. The year is 2154. Mankind is divided into two classes: the 99 percent that still live on Earth, a barren wasteland with extreme poverty, crime, disease and the lucky 1 percenters who've relocated to a space station orbiting the once green planet. On Elysium, there is no war, poverty, or even illness. Cancer can be cured with a quick scan using a DIY home med bay.
Working in a robot factory in burned out Los Angeles, Max (Matt Damon) is accidentally exposed to deadly levels of radiation. He has five days before he'll expire. His only hope is to sneak on to Elysium. But first he'll need to get his body equipped with some upgrades.
In 2009, writer-director Neill Blomkamp had an incredible debut with District 9. The film grossed over $200 million worldwide, was a critical darling and nabbed a best picture nomination at the Oscars. For his follow-up, he's got a bigger idea, a bigger budget and even some big name stars.
Critically, Elysium has been receiving positive reviews overall, but there's definitely more of mixed reception vibe-feeling than with D9.
Such a high concept was bound to not gel with everyone. Our take? Blomkamp still has plenty to show us about ourselves and the best way to experience such massive set-pieces is on the big screen. However, there are a few script issues that are goofier than The Jetsons' Rosie the robot.
Damon leads a cast that includes Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Diego Luna and Alice Braga. Check out five things you need to know about Elysium:
1. It Really Is Better Up There: At least they don't have silly flashbacks! As a kid, Max dreams of going "up there" compete with soapy visuals, slow-motion and new-age music. At nearly two hours, those moments kill the pacing and are beyond unnecessary especially since adult Max is played by the ever likable Damon.
2. Damon and Foster = Star Power: Part of Blomkamp's deal for a mega budget movie was putting name actors in key roles. Damon is a perfect fit for all that gearhead speak. Early scenes with Max berating his automaton workmates is a wonderful use of the actor's natural charisma. As the tale gets darker, we're stay in his corner. Jodie Foster's pro-military tool Elysium's Secretary Delacourt could have been an interesting change of pace for the veteran actress, but the character really has no shading. She simply has no sympathy for the citizens of Earth because she isn't one.
3. Robots are the New Prawns: District 9 impressed with a moderate $40 million dollar budget and many cat food-loving aliens dubbed prawns. Elysium has no aliens to muddy up all those pretty future mansions. Robots though are everywhere. That they move with forcefulness that implies their weight is incredible.
4. Not-So-Subtle Political Overtones: Great sci-fi is almost always not about the future as much as a direct comment on the now. Think the overcrowding of District 9 and the complete ignorance of the main worker bee character as he begins his journey. Here the problem isn't quite the illegal immigrant allegory, although that is pretty hardwired in all the dialogue, so much as the lack of any genuine reason for why the folks living in Elysium are such jerks. Part of Max's character arc is that he ain't in it for a revolution, he just wants to be cured. (Think Keanu Reeves' "just Johnny" in Johnny Mnemonic.) But is there ever a doubt he'll come to the aid of his former childhood friend's dying daughter? If the caricatures of the rich are meant as satire, then humor would have helped this tale immensely. Even the so-bad-it's-good Mnemonic this knew this.
5. That's Quite a Rig: As he demonstrated in D9, Shalto is very engaging for someone so despicable. Ex-solder for hire Kruger (Shalto) is so cruel he could be related to Freddy. He has some of the best action and clever dialogue in the whole film. Just like Freddy! If only Kruger and Max had teamed up—that would have been far out.