April 1, 2023
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Review: Director’s visuals overshadow storyline in sci-fi flick


Neill Blomkamp

The political and economic issues faced by today’s growing society seem to have manifested and intensified in the new science-fiction parable “Elysium.”

Neill Blomkamp, director and writer of the film, makes the growing gap between the rich and the poor the centerpiece of the film’s alternate universe, in which he wants viewers to question the inhumanity in society. But though these issues are well-implemented in the storyline, many other aspects of the movie fall short.

Blomkamp’s sci-fi tale takes place in the 22nd century when future Earth is riddled with diseases and the atmosphere is infiltrated with heavy pollution. With a lack of viable resources and a corrupt corporate system, Earth has transformed into an underdeveloped planet. Los Angeles, the setting for the film’s depiction of Earth, has become inhabited by a largely impoverished Latino class, which suffers from the brutal oppression of android police officers.

In contrast, Elysium, a technologically advanced satellite, shines visibly in the sky and orbits Earth. The beautiful world of Elysium is in every way a utopia, created as a safe haven for upper-class citizens who fled planet Earth to be free of disease, crime and poverty. The scenes of the satellite are visually impressive, including the glorious floating city in the shape of a star with beautiful mansions peppered on the inner rim of the artificial Earth.

The creation of the two worlds in “Elysium” is the most successful aspect of the movie. As the writer and director of the 2009 sci-fi hit, “District 9,” Blomkamp reveals his expertise in creating fictional futuristic advancements and surreal environments. The juxtaposition between an overpopulated, economically depressed Earth and the mesmerizing, utopian world of Elysium is established during the first 10 minutes of the film.

While Blomkamp shines with his use of visual enhancements, once the narrative begins, “Elysium” unfortunately fails to appeal in both originality and characterization. Matt Damon plays the story’s protagonist, Max Da Costa, an ex-felon working an assembly-line factory job with the hopes of saving enough money to fulfill his childhood dream of buying a ticket to Elysium. His desperation to reach Elysium escalates when he is struck with a full blast of radiation that consequently leaves him with five days to live. Max’s only chance of survival is to sneak himself into Elysium, where state-of-the-art healing machines are capable of curing any type of injury or disease.

Jodie Foster plays Delacourt Rhodes, the manipulative secretary of homeland security on Elysium who annihilates any illegal immigrants from Earth trying to breach its atmosphere. Supposedly the leading antagonist of the film, Foster makes sporadic appearances, so her character seems insignificant. Rhodes’ useless attempts to hinder illegals from crossing into Elysium makes Foster seem empty and without energy, giving her little credit as an actress.

For the rest of the film, the narrative drags on slowly. Blomkamp remains too focused on playing out every single detail of the storyline. He constantly places an unnecessary emphasis on the usage of weaponry and the need to turn Damon’s character into an Iron Man clone, complete with robotic armor attached to his body in order to carry out fistfights that are excruciatingly long.

The story became so packed with battle scenes that it took away time from giving an elaborated view of the day-to-day life in Elysium. Other than the scene where Foster’s character briefly interacts with her family and friends at a rendezvous in her mansion, no other cinematic visuals portray this utopian world.

Blomkamp has the insight and the directorial talent to manufacture a sci-fi masterpiece. Unfortunately, he doesn’t deliver with “Elysium.” With more cinematic attempts to showcase the brilliant settings he invented, and less cluttered plotlines with weak characters, “Elysium” could have been impressive sci-fi entertainment.