It is impossible not to compare Neill Blomkamp’s sophomore effort to its predecessor District 9. The tone is very much the same and, though they are set in the future, they both deal with issues that are quite relevant today. While District 9 deals with the more universal concept of segregation, Elysium tackles the (Occupy inspired) idea of the 99%.
While Elysium lacks the emotional impact of District 9, it surpasses it visually and benefits from a more experienced cast (including Sharlto Copley, who’s character in this is much more menacing than District 9’s likable Wikus). Blomkamp’s experience is also evident and you would never be able to tell Elysium was only his second feature. Lacking in experience, however, is rookie best boy Mike Hrycan, whose greenness is evident, though he does show signs of promise.
The creativity Blomkamp puts into his films is refreshing. They aren’t simply sci-fi allegories with pretty special effects; He makes the future a reality. It is gritty and believable and the weapons, gadgets, and even ideals help to achieve this and are a delight to look at.
Elysium falls short for two reasons, in my opinion. One is you know who you’re supposed to be rooting for but that character (played by Matt Damon) is far too selfish and complicated to be completely likable. It all serves the story, but I would have liked to have had one character I was truly rooting for the entire time. The second reason is that it assumes all rich people are selfish (or it fails to mention any humanitarian efforts to help the poor population on Earth). I think in order to be a completely effective story, it has to be honest and not paint the classes with such a one-dimensional brush.
Regardless of its few faults, Elysium is the sci-fi film of the year and is a must-see for fans of Blomkamp. As far as I’m concerned, that man should be given any good sci-fi project.
7.5 Heads of lettuce out of 10