I was very impressed with director Neill Blomkamp’s District 9. Being his first full-length feature, it was such a surprise success four years ago that it was even nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Not bad for a first time right? It’s not surprising that his next feature will be another science fiction film. In early 2011, Blomkamp shared art designs of his proposed sci-fi film which eventually won the executives of Sony Pictures. With a budget of $115 million, production began and it was titled as Elysium. Set in a Dystopian era in the year 2154, two classes of people exist; the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined planet. The people of Earth are desperate to escape the crime and poverty that is now rampant throughout the land. The only man with the chance to bring equality to these worlds is Max (Matt Damon), an ordinary guy in desperate need to get to Elysium. With his life hanging in the balance, he reluctantly takes on a dangerous mission – one that pits him against Elysium’s Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her hard-line forces – but if he succeeds, he could save not only his own life, but millions of people on Earth as well.
Matt Damon was the third choice for the lead role which was first offered to rappers Ninja and Eminem. As Max De Costa, he gave a decent central performance. You’ll sympathize with his character as he looks for a way to survive his inevitable death after five days. In the film, he got two adversaries. Jodie Foster played the ruthless Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt who is determined to keep Elysium immigrant-free by her own means. She’s a reliable great actress but I have to admit I have a problem with the accent she used in this film. It can be distracting at times during her line delivery. It would have been better if she used her regular accent. Next to her is Sharlto Copley as undercover Agent C.M. Kruger who does Delacourt’s dirty assignments. Like Foster, I had accent issues with him. This time, there were some scenes that I can’t understand what he’s saying. Still, I find his performance amusing. Serving as Damon’s childhood love interest is Alice Braga. She did okay as a mother who struggled to get her daughter cured. I like Emma Tremblay, the child actress who played her daughter. By looking at her eyes, they are enough to get your sympathy as her character experiences Leukemia.
For the story, I got high hopes for this follow-up since this is a comeback for Blomkamp. Is this Oscar-worthy for a Best Picture nomination? Disappointingly, no. Having a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination around his belt, I expected more from Blomkamp who also wrote the script. In fairness to him, he did manage to fit more stuff and elements in its running time. I thought it was 2 hours long but when the credits rolled and I checked my watch, it was only 1 hour and 40 minutes. Overall by comparison with District 9, it’s less compelling and engaging but not that bad. It’s a good attempt from the director. It will still manage to please some moviegoers. I watched it with my sister and she likes it.
What is worth watching in this film is its visual thanks to WETA Workshop. Elysium itself is well-designed and looks cool. Through the enormous screen of IMAX, you can usually spot the flaws of the CGI which are sometimes unnoticeable in a regular screen. But for this film, I didn’t spot any flaws in the CGI. The visual effects are impressive particularly in the aircrafts and the robots. It’s definitely one of this year’s flawless utilization of CGI.
Elysium is an undeniable visual treat. It’s quite a disappointment if you compared it with District 9 but still a good attempt from Neill Blomkamp.
About the movie reviewer:
John Albert Villanueva is a self-confessed movie geek. He love movies so much that he watch almost every movies that’s out in the big screen and collects DVDs of classic films and the ones that won an Oscar. John Albert Villanueva review movies exclusively for Orange Magazine TV.