Elysium 2013 Review – Not So Hidden Message

Elysium 2013 Review


IzzieBytes Rating: 4/5, A-
Characters: 4/5
Story: 4/5
Acting: 4/5
Effects: 5/5
Music: 4/5

The Summer of Sci-fi continues with Elysium, a dystopian adventure with a thinly veiled message about privilege, poverty, and the very controversial issues of universal health care and immigration.

After District 9’s resounding success, writer / director Neill Blomkamp had left himself some pretty large shoes to fill with Elysium. I’d personally argue that, while still great, Elysium didn’t quite meet the level that D9 did and falls short on a bizarre conclusion that quite possibly counters the entire plot.


Queen Bitch, reporting for defense.
Queen Bitch, reporting for defense.

What we have is a classic archetypal story to the genre –  increased overpopulation and starved resources cause a schism in the human race in the form of Elysium, a circular space paradise where the privileged flee to escape a dying Earth. Front and center we get the issue of racism thrown in our face – aside from main character Max (Matt Damon) and his factory boss , the people left on Earth – or at least futuristic LA, are largely ethnic. But, jump back to Elysium and we have a population of hoity-toity white people living in excessive luxury, most notable of which is amazing technology with the power to heal any ailment, illness, or wound in a matter of moments. With limited food, jobs, and medical resources, the state on Earth is dire. Jobs are hard to find, and harder to hold onto, and people are treated as glorified work animals.

Every so often small fleets of ships from Earth make suicidal “border crossing” attempts to get to Elysium. Although the reasons are many, there is a large focus on that of the healing machines – mothers smuggling their children in hopes of saving them from fatal diseases. Defense of Elysium is left to the cold Delacourt (Jodi Foster), who has a twisted moral attitude when it comes to these entry attempts by Earth.

Through her process of “elimination” and handling of those who make it past, we learn some very intriguing things. Despite Elysium’s luxurious privilege, they do seem to have residual respect for previous rules when it comes to turning on other human beings. That sympathy is limited, however, and some care convinced Earthlings are better off dead anyway.

The story was very linear, much more so than District 9, but if you pay enough attention there are definitely some small moments of dialogue or imagery that adds a bit to a backstory we don’t quite get.

There are some plot holes that bother me, mostly surrounding technology. For instance, how is it an underground crime lord has the equipment and resources to send people to space but not a med pod, which allegedly are in over-abundance on Elysium? Or how a factory has a machine capable of detecting organic material (AKA human) but not have the ability to shut itself down when said organic material is detected – or even just an emergency off button? That doesn’t make sense. If the med-pods can cure anything and rebuild a body part, how come people on Elysium look old at times? Wouldn’t they arguably also stop themselves from aging? Or if the med pods are so abundant, why exactly are they scarce or unused on Earth?

Characters / Acting

The Face of Crazy.
The Face of Crazy.

The acting was above average but nothing to particularly write home about. Matt Damon was great as Max, but Elysium continues the trend of supporting cast being the ones who shine brightest. Jodi Foster was surprisingly dry, though you certainly get the Queen Bitch vibe well enough. Alice Braga was ok, if not a bit boring. Sharlto Copley, however, stole the show in his role as a total and complete psychopath, making Kruger the most interesting character to watch if nothing else for his sheer and utter animalistic drive for chaos. And big guns. Really big guns. William Fichtner was equally wonderful in his role as an overly entitled, stuck-up “noble” forced to work down with us dirty plebeians. And the last person of note is Spider, a crime lord who surprisingly is the most morally complex of the lot.


Special Effects

Should we even comment on effects anymore these days? Blomkamp’s definitive genius when it comes to sci-fi design was matched with spectacular CGI to create a world that is absolutely stunning but also terrifying in its closeness to home. Out-of-this world technology mixes with almost dated poverty on Earth. Then we get to see the utopian paradise of Elysium’s world, a stark contrast in it’s perfection and gross glorification of the white picket fence. Needless to say, the visuals were amazing, and I highly appreciate the IMAX sans 3D experience that’s so hard to find these days.

The film does suffer some major shaky-cam, though, that makes you dizzy at best, completely distracts from otherwise wonderfully choreographed / edited fight scenes at worse.

Aren’t you a pretty little science experiment.

All in all – Elysium doesn’t measure up to District 9, but that doesn’t make it disappointing. The political and social messages are clear – perhaps a little too clear – and the resolution may leave you feeling a little dissatisfied. But overall, still a good sci-fi film to see. Much better than Oblivion, but still not quite as good as Pacific Rim.

I’d say for sci-fi fans, worth seeing in theaters before it’s out!

 To the Readers: If you’ve seen Elysium, what are your thoughts? How do you think it compares to District 9? What are your thoughts on the political and social message the film is trying to send? 

  • Thierry De Wolf

    Heya Izzie,

    Glad to see you did a review on this one, seeing as how I’ve already seen Elysium (how can I not, when you’ve been looking out for it for over 2 months or so^^) and was kinda wondering what other people thought about it. Frankly, you did a way better job then me when it comes to giving a review about this movie, but for the sake of, here are a few more thoughts added on to the pile.

    First of all, you summed the political and ethical situation pretty well up, so no need for me to get into that any deeper, seeing as how I completely agree with you on that.

    I’m more of a visual person myself, so I tend to go more the for details. That’s how I noticed there wasn’t as much creativity in Elysium as there was in D9. I’m talking about the level of detail Weta Workshop put in those guns back in D9. Somehow Elysium didn’t seem to have that. It did have some killer droids though. I mean, I’ve seen a glimpse on how they did it on CGSociety, and so I got an idea as to how much work went into it. In case you’re interested, head on over to http://tiny.cc/n8i92w

    On the lore (aka the machines in the movie) you wonder as to how some people on Elysium look old, I think that one reasion could be, is that they arrived there as old people. They somehow must’ve bought themselves inside Elysium at late age or something I suspect. It’s the only reason I can come up with. After all, the machines maintain your body, they don’t reverse the process. And the reason as to why the med pods are so abundant on Elysium, yet scarce or unused on Earth? Mostly because miss bitch (hehe, couldn’t resist) probably just doesn’t feel like it. She wants the technology to remain for the elite only.

    On the acting, Sharlto Copley stole all the attention for me back in D9 and he did so again in this one. Matt never stood a chance in my opinion (I root for the bad guys mostly, you see) and actually even underacted in comparison to his other performances, in my opinion.

    So far for my thoughts. So in short, still a good movie (not as good as D9 though), yet entertaining enough to go see it in theaters.