After all the fanfare, Neill Blomkamp’s second sci-fi outing doesn’t reach the hefty heights he achieved with his 2009 breakout film District 9, writes Gavin Miller.
This Matt Damon and Jodie Foster headlined action-drama still provides a solid watch but doesn’t really fulfil the potential shown in the trailer.
As South African director Blomkamp had set the bar so high, we were expecting something simply out of this world – but in the end Elysium turns out to be pretty generic.
That’s despite an intriguing premise, which sees the very wealthy live on a disease-free man made space station orbiting the planet, with security run by Jodie Foster’s (complete with weird accent that hampers her performance) ruthless defence secretary Delacourt – and the rest of the population living on a ruined Earth.
Enter ex-convict Max (Damon), who must get to this Utopia to save his life after being hit by an incurable bout of radiation, and in the process gets his hands on Delacourt’s plans to overthrow Elysium’s president as he’s turned into a (kind of) super soldier.
Again, as in District 9, Sharlto Copley (who played the lead in that film) is the best human aspect in this, playing deranged ex-military man Kruger hired by Delacourt to do her dirty work on Earth, and he’s sent to try and stop Max achieving his goal.
While there’s much to enjoy with Blompkamp’s beautifully crafted polarising worlds and some decent set pieces, the film seems to run out of concrete ideas very early.
This leaves it plodding towards the inevitable finale, with the ‘shanty’ townships on Earth unfortunately giving a distinct feeling of District 9.5 – with robots substituting aliens.
Despite good performances from Copley and the ever-reliable Damon – counteracting an indifferent one from Foster – it never really escapes District 9’s shadow with more than a handful of production similarities. This in turn puts Blomkamp’s ‘genius’ tag temporarily on hold, but he still does enough to garner admiration.