Even if “Elysium” has big stars (Matt Damon, Jodie Foster) and an even bigger budget, the post-apocalyptic sci-fi film can’t avoid comparison to director Neill Blomkamp’s first film — “District 9.” The 2009 film came out of nowhere to wow audiences with a fresh concept (aliens land on Earth and are forced to live in an internment camp in South Africa) from a first time director. Blomkamp’s follow-up, “Elysium,” offers similar social commentary packaged in a summer blockbuster’s trappings — with a summer blockbuster’s budget.
Damon plays Max DeCosta, an ex-con and factory worker who barely survives living in the slum that Earth has become. His only hope of surviving a deadly disease lies on Elysium, the orbiting space station paradise reserved for the rich and only the rich. Foster plays Elysium’s Secretary of Defense, who will stop at nothing to keep the unwanted dregs of Earth from reaching Elysium. Critics still laud Blomkamp as a visionary filmmaker, one who shows remarkable talent given his short resumé, even if the metaphors in both of his films closely resemble each other.
Read on for a sample of what the critics are saying about “Elysium.”
Timely Social Commentary
“This kind of haves vs. have-nots future has been a staple of cinematic science fiction from Fritz Lang’s ’Metropolis’ in 1927. But Blomkamp makes it a truly angry commentary on the arrogance of the 1 Percent, restrictive immigration policies, and the lack of universal health care… Still, for all its flaws, ’Elysium’ is an often-absorbing and largely entertaining film from a young director with a great future.” — Charlie McCollum, San Jose Mercury News
Angry And Alive
“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: ’Elysium,’ written and directed by Neill Blomkamp, and set in the year 2154… 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.” — Anthony Lane, The New Yorker
Not As Good As “District 9″
“You don’t have to be a bloodhound to smell an allegory shaping up, particularly if you’ve seen writer-director Blomkamp’s 2009 debut feature, ’District 9’… But ’District 9′ was most notable for Blomkamp’s skill at creating a believable sci-fi world without spending a lot of dough. The movie felt as if, against all odds, its creator had willed it into being. Elysium doesn’t have the same brashness. Though the plot specifics are different, thematically it looks and feels almost like a sequel, made with a lot more money though not with more ingenuity or feeling.” — Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice
This Film’s Got Moxie
“So basically, plot-wise, we’ve got a mix of ’Metropolis’ and ’Pickup on South Street,’ but Blomkamp keeps things rousing, whether he’s outfitting Damon and Copley with exo-skeletons for their inevitable showdown or introducing weapons that make robots explode in cool slo-mo fashion. One of Blomkamp’s most satisfying choices is too much of a spoiler to discuss, but it shows the kind of moxie that too few blockbusters possess. Damon’s role often seems more physically than emotionally taxing, but he plunges into it enthusiastically. We can’t help rooting for Max, no matter how stacked the cards are against him in this exploitative society.” — Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
“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. Everything on Blomkamp and production designer Philip Ivey’s Earth seems built for functionality rather than aesthetics and looks slightly out-of-date, at best 21st-century technology still slogging along decades later, while Elysium is all curvilinear modernism, a triumph of form over function.” — Scott Foundas, Variety