Elysium is an interesting movie, but it has me a bit torn. On one hand, it’s a beautifully designed sci-fi flick that’s both imaginative and exciting, but on the other hand, it’s pretty bland in terms of its story and characters, especially considering the promise it showed. It’s a fun action flick, but unfortunately it’s not much more than that.
The movie takes place in the year 2154, when Earth’s wealthy have all migrated to the paradise-like space station known as Elysium, leaving the lesser-off back on Earth, where things aren’t so nice. The planet is overpopulated, the people are poor, live in shacks, and are forced to work dangerous jobs and long hours in order to keep the pockets of the rich full.
It’s an extremely relevant premise that could’ve been something truly special if it was actually used. Sadly, however, the intriguing themes and ideas presented in the film’s opening act go nowhere and instead serve as a meager backdrop for what is primarily a science fiction action movie.
Our protagonist is a man named Max, a troubled yet well-meaning individual who’s biggest dream is to live on Elysium. While he gets caught up in the criminal underworld every so often, Max is trying to turn things around for himself, especially once an old ‘friend’ comes back into his life. And that’s about as deep as he gets.
While Matt Damon is a perfectly capable actor, and plays Max as best as he can, he’s really just bland here. Max’s character is two-dimensional, and while he’s easy to root for, I never connected with him personally or even cared about how his story ended. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh, but there was only one time in the entire film when I actually felt a connection to Max, and that’s a shame, because he could’ve been so much better.
In fact, the same can pretty much be said for the entire cast. Alice Braga, who I normally really enjoy, isn’t even interesting here, and her character Frey is little more than a plot point to get the story moving. And while Jodie Foster’s character fares much better, her inconsistent accent and limited screen time keep her from really improving things all that much.
The only character who really stood out to me Sharlto Copley’s Kruger, the brutally violent bounty hunter hired to track down Max. Even though Kruger’s character is a little flat, he feels like a throwback to the classic movie villains of the ’80s, and his intense, volatile demeanor make him oddly mesmerizing to watch.
It’s too bad he doesn’t get more screen time though, because I think that if Kruger was fleshed out a little more, and Copley was given even more time to show off his acting abilities, Elysium would’ve been a much more interesting film.
With all that said though, I did enjoy Elysium. For starters, the film looks absolutely gorgeous, and it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the visuals even when the story is dragging its feet. Neil Blomkamp is a very capable director, and some of the shots of Earth and Elysium are really quite spectacular, especially since the technology we get to see is just so cool.
Where Elysium really shines though is in its action set pieces, which are absolutely exhilarating. This is a very violent movie, and while the action is more scattered throughout the movie, each encounter is so utterly intense that it’s really thrilling. If Elysium is good at anything, it’s definitely it’s fight sequences, even more so when Kruger’s involved.
The climax is especially noteworthy because it gives us a very classic ‘boss battle’ between Max and Kruger that is pure, edge-of-your seat adrenaline. It’s a great scene, and it thankfully ends the movie on a high note, even if the final resolution was predictable.
While I couldn’t hep but feel disappointed in Elysium, I did enjoy it. The visuals and special effects are spectacularly done, and the action scenes are so brutal and intense that they draw you in even though the story and characters don’t.
All things considered though, Elysium feels like a missed opportunity. It expressed so much promise in its premise and tone, but got so caught up on its visuals that it forget to tell a meaningful story. It’s predictable and shallow, but still a lot of fun if you know what to expect walking in.