Elysium is everything that District 9 is not. The obvious message of Universal Health Care that appears in the form of magic SpaceBeds that heal any and all illness. It’s also meant to be about the distribution of wealth as well, I guess, since the hyper-rich apparently all live on this torus ring hanging in orbit above earth, living otherworldly, ever-youthful lives without a care in the world. While the surface is covered with impoverished people who save so they may illegally enter Elysium to get to those SpaceBeds.
It seems like this should be something original. But the story, the pacing, the characters, all feel like they have been lifted from other movies. You have Max, who is going to die if he doesn’t get to a SpaceBed. Then he receives a MacGuffin that every other stakeholder in the film wants. Jodie Foster plays Delacourt who is some kind of security/defence minister. I didn’t quite catch it, because throughout her scenes, I was trying to determine whether Delacourt was human or a robot. The way she spoke seemed broken and synthesised (spoilers: she was human, which is why I’m no BladeRunner). You have a best friend that tags along only to get killed. You have Spider, a future Che Guevera (you know, Communist Jesus), who arranges to smuggle people to Magic SpaceBedLand, only for them to be apprehended. And then you have Kruger, a one-dimensional killer, whose only motivation seems to be follow orders up until the point where he sees the MacGuffin and it proves too enticing to be ignored. And you have Frey, the love interest with her daughter, Matilda, also seeking SpaceBed assistance.
The problem here is that Blomkamp likes First-Person Shooters. The action scenes from this film and District 9 tell me this. The weapons have different designs and effects, like items you pickup throughout the progressive stages of a game. The entirety of the story, seems very similar to Bioshock Infinite, which features a floating city of privileged people held aloft by the lower classes. And then lots of murder happens. Kruger acts and looks like a mid-to-final boss. And the final fight scene, I kept expecting queues for quick-time events. The ending was dragged out more than a Peter Jackson scene, and crammed with more heartstring-yanking moments than what usually fits in a Doctor Who Tumblr. And thanks to the MacGuffin and obligatory sacrifice, everyone on Earth can now receive access to SpaceBeds. Run Credits in a sci-fi font against a field of stars.
The social issues in the movie, health care and classism, are drowned out by violence or stunted by the pacing. All of this is punctuated by weird, yet hilarious, moments that harken back to Hackers, whereby any character who simply glances at the Macguffin completely understands its purpose and then suddenly desires to use it. There’s also the problem of a half-formed world. There are only two classes subject in this story – ultra-poor and space-rich. Elysium obviously has no industry, but there’s no line of shuttles to supply them with the goods they need. The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building; when it was completed, there was no sewerage system to take the waste away. Septic tank trucks lined up for hours to dispose of the waste that the tower and Dubai produced. Yet, Elysium hangs in the sky, unobstructed by shuttles.
The people on Elysium seem to wield some kind of power over the surface dwellers, though it is never clear what it is. It could have been easily explained in a couple of lines – like the entire surface of the Earth is now a Free Trade Zone and Elysium creates contracts to areas which can provide the highest quality goods at the lowest price. But this is never established. Elysium has a President, but it’s not made clear whether this office extends to Earth or just Elysium. It’s implausible to think that the collective governments of Earth would simply close up shop and leave to it a bunch of jerks, lording their SpaceBeds from their exclusive and heavily-gated community.
All in all, Elysium is a gross disappointment, both of in story and quality of sci-fi. It’s characters are dime-a-dozen tchotchkes you find in every tourist shop, its plot is factory made, rebadged with a different name. And it’s message just the another hissing tone from the background of the universe.
I watch this movie with a buddy of mine and you can read his review here