Elysium Review

Will our future look much like our present? Will technology in itself save us from a world of want? Those, among other questions about humanity and our society are among the questions raised in Elysium is the second film of director Neill Blomkamp. The South African film director, known for 2009’s sleeper science fiction film District 9 returns with another film in the genre.

Elysium depicts a future where there are two classes of people: the wealthy, and everybody else. The well off have all banded together to leave Earth and live on a space station in its immediate orbit. Who is left on Earth, to suffer: The rest of humanity. While the divisions are stark, they are an extrapolation of issues we face today.

Matt Damon stars as the protagonist Max, a factory worker with a shady past. Through no fault of his own, he becomes ill, and his only hope is to make it to Elysium where everyone has health care. The film fills out, as Max goes on this journey, and his struggle ties into the overarching themes of society’s issues at large. Elysium tackles the issues of xenophobia, immigration, class struggle and conflict, and health care. While the messages are there, they are not overbearing. This writer noticed that Blomkamp took a shot at the Carlyle Group in a way.

There has been some backlash directed at this film, and given the social commentary implicit, it is not hard to see why.  One can surmise that a few reviewers may not have liked the film because they deem it as “heavy handed” when all that means is that what it hits too close to contemporary conditions. Summer films are not supposed to be so thick with messages, and Elysium is a sci fi action film with a lot of violence, and content too. In this writer’s opinion, it is the best film of this summer, even edging out Star Trek Into Darkness. For Blomkamp to tell an interesting and compact story, and set up a plausible world 150 years into the future is a feat.  One that I feel was accomplished well.  I recommend seeing this film.


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  1. Society has this way of not wanting to view the truth. I can very well see this happening if man continues to go on the road that it is traveling on now. I can see that happening easily it may not happen in my time but in my daughters or grandchildren time. Look what is happening over seas with Egypt and other countries, it is happening now with the Republican and the Democratic party. Look what is happening right now with our present mayor in NYC and his views on how to deal with the poor. It is just a matter of time.

  2. The social commentary is nowhere near being as subtle or as sly as District 9. However, the points it makes about current-day American, especially with immigration, are very smart, almost too smart for a summer blockbuster of this nature. Then again, it does star Matt Damon so that should be pretty obvious whether or not it’s going to be preachy. Good review Marc.

  3. I found this movie to be a refreshing commentary of today’s society. Got the message across without being sappy. Great review Mark!

  4. Then there’s the balance of issues and action. Blomkamp has a knack for making thought-provoking popcorn movies. He likes”cars exploding and gunfire” as much as anybody. “Those are ingredients that when I was a kid, I wanted to get into cinema,” he said. That leaves him constantly choosing between two sides of his nature. “When the ‘science fiction’ outweighs that portrayal of contemporary life through a different lens and you’re doing it for the sake of science fiction, then for this particular film, it’s wrong,” he says. “That’s what I was constantly balancing. You know, where this science fiction, R-rated, shit-blows-up filmmaker wants to go right, but the allegory needs to turn left. Those were the decisions where it was like, ‘I really want to do this, but will I lose the audience because now you’re making something that’s not grounded,’ you know? That’s what I was dealing with.” In “Elysium,” the allegory won out. On a studio tentpole, he’d be under enormous pressure to favor action.

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