With District 9, the brilliant low budget sci-fi film, safely tucked under his belt. Neill Bloomkamp has turned his hand to Elysium, with a $100 million budget, it was only natural that Neill would try to bite of a little more. District 9 was brilliantly ambitious in its SciFi thriller, leading us on a journey with the realistic protagonist Wikus whilst keeping serious metaphorical undertones of segregation and racism, balancing the two well. Elysium however, decides to tackle multiple problems of world poverty, the class divide, police states and space travel. It does none of these things particularly well. It was always going to be a big ask, the concept alone is a huge task to tackle, often the best way to show social inequality is through characters, for instance, despite its shortcomings, The Hunger Games actually does a great job of showing not just the divide, but the ignorance towards the lower classes by the wealthy through the often well meaning but completely oblivious characters that surround the protagonist. Elysium makes the rich society look “evil” as opposed to the pinnacle of self preservation and instead of showing us their ignorance and distaste for humanity, they simply tell the audience outright in one liners such as “Don’t breathe on me”, it is lazy storytelling that is used because the film does not give any scene enough room to breathe.
Neill appears to suffer from what I like to call, The George Lucas Effect. On a shoestring budget, one must resort to storytelling and character development, using the special effects sparingly when needed. This is why I love A New Hope and why I love District 9. Elysium is, for me, the Phantom Menace of Neill Bloomkamp’s sci fi dystopias.
The special effects are good, the weapons are inventive and the explosions are all believable, no doubt. But the point is that I don’t know who’s being blown up and frankly I don’t care. In fact I don’t care about any of the characters, and if a film is so bad that I don’t even care if a girl with leukaemia lives or not, then something must be severely wrong. The whole film felt like it was being viewed through a neighbour’s window. The editing did not feel like a developing story, but more like a montage of images, like the “Previously on…” montages before a new season of a television program, all the facts are there so you know what’s going on, but only the raw footage, completely lacking any emotional depth. It also had the same core problem the Phantom Menace had, with too many story lines, none of them are given time to develop in any meaningful way. I will try and surmise the film as best i can.
There are roughly four story lines in this film. But first, an overview.
Overpopulation has lead to the diminishment of earth’s resources, the richest of humanity now live on a new Space Station called Elysium. They have also subsequently invented a machine which cures all illness and disease, and is the main focus for most people in getting to Elysium.
>>>>This Part of The Review Is Completely Full Of Spoilers!<<<<
Story line 1: Matt Damon is a factory worker named Max who is building robots that can do everything a human can, except build other robots for some reason. He gets into an accident at work, leaving him with 5 days to live, he needs to get to Elysium because they have those big machines that cure all illness. To do this he decides he may as well live the American dream by robbing and murdering his asshole boss to pay for a ticket off some shady immigrant runners who tries to get sick people to Elysium for money. In the future everyone stores bank codes and date in their own brain. so this is what max has to steal. To do this he also has to have an exoskeleton attached to his body, its a good job the film ended the way it did because they forgot to take off his shirt when they drilled the machine onto his spine and it was already pretty grubby.
Storyline 2: There is civil unrest on Elysium for some reason, everyone has everything but stocks are falling, because ? . Jodie Foster decides enough is enough and tries to take over the whole Space Station by Ctrl+Alt+Deleting the president (I shit you not, this is essentially how they take over the whole space station). To do this he needs to help of Max’s asshole boss John Carlyle who builds all those robots because he is in charge of security, John downloads the security hacks into his own brain. But after Max steals his knowledge out of his brain, she must now find Max. With the help of the only character with any charisma in the whole film Sharlto Copley’s bounty hunter, Kruger.
Storyline 3: Matt Damon as an 8-year-old Max promises to take his 8-year-old girlfriend to Elysium. Meanwhile a nun tells him that earth is just as pretty from space as Elysium is from earth. I can’t help but feel the “grass is always greener” analogy probably has very little relevance when where you live doesn’t actually have any grass. Also this plotline must be incredibly important because they show you it every 20 minutes throughout the film and as you know all cinema audiences are fish and cannot retain memory for longer then that.
Storyline 4: Matt Damon’s 8 year old girlfriend Freya is all grown up and is a nurse with a daughter who has leukaemia, as a side note, look how little fucks Matt Damon gives about this kid, its important to note this, he does not give one iota of a shit about this kid aside from sort of looking like he feels a bit bad for her for a second.
All these plots could interweave, working with each other to their conclusions but instead they kind of seem to get in the way of each other, like fat kids squabbling at a buffet but less fun to watch. The primary storyline is getting Max to Elysium but while doing this he accidentally drags Freya and her daughter into the mix. It’s from here that the film starts to make very little sense.
Firstly, Kruger decides to kidnap Freya and her daughter, but not for leverage over Max. In fact as far as I can tell he just sort of took a shine to them. Max decides he will go quietly with Kruger but as insurance, will hold a live grenade the whole way to Elysium to make sure Kruger doesn’t pull any funny business. But oh wait, Kruger has Freya and the daughter on board, maybe he did that to stop Max from trying anything. Well it doesn’t work because as we previously mentioned, Max does not give a fuck about that kid and holds onto his grenade like a fat kid with a sausage roll. At this point we are about three quarters through the film, and Max has so far only looked out for himself.
Due to some shady antics by Kruger, the space ship is blown apart by Max’s grenade and everyone is kidnapped. Kruger decides he is bored of being Jodie Fosters lackey and tries to take over the most powerful HQ in existence, which he does successfully, with 3 men. Not a robot guard in sight. Meanwhile Max’s old friends have used this minor distraction to sneak a spaceship to Elysium and also take over Elysium which he also does successfully, with 3 men.
During all this at some point Max has now decided he will sacrifice himself in order to save the little girl. There is not a reason for this other then a random change of heart. He uses his brain-password that he stole of his old boss’s head to hack into the space station and delete the bit “il” from “Illegal immigrant” which now makes everyone on planet earth a citizen of Elysium. Resetting Elysium also kills Max in the process, i wonder if his old boss John knew it would have killed him when he did it, because this was his plan anyway… i guess not. Now that everyone is a Citizen of Elysium, they can all use the healing machines and live forever too, hooray!
So the ending to film about over population leading to earths ruin, is a system that will keep all of humanity alive for the rest of eternity, until they completely exhaust the resources, leading to the rich to separate themselves from others and forming their own colony, which might be named like Elysium or something….
Do you agree or completely disagree with my review? If so let me know in the comments section, ill be glad to hear what people think.