Reviews

Elysium

3

That’s no moon, it’s a space station…

When Total Film saw Neill Blomkamp’s dystopian mindfuck District 9 (2009), we were blown away.

A “stunning debut,” we called the epic fantasy that wrangled hot-button issues of racism, subjugation and segregation, “heralding the arrival of an exciting new action-cinema voice”.

Neo-realist, gritty, innovative and boasting a gut-punch of an arc for its protagonist (Sharlto Copley), from selfish to selfless, District 9 was a promise of greatness from Blomkamp and a brave new world of smart sci-fi for heart and head.

Four years on, and here’s his hugely anticipated follow-up, Elysium… and Blomkamp has done it again. Almost exactly. The set-up’s tweaked – in 2154, Earth’s been bled dry and the rich live in a space station while the poor, disenfranchised and ill scrape an existence miles below – but Elysium shares strikingly similar visual/narrative/emotional beats with its predecessor.

It’s still exciting and thought-provoking – but less fresh and consequently, something of a disappointment.

Lens flare glints handsomely off a richly detailed decaying world (à la D9) as ex-con Max (Matt Damon, reliably compelling) is forced to become an unlikely freedom fighter when his own health is compromised.

On Elysium, the wealthy have medical pods which eradicate disease, injury and even sun damage. So if Max can break into the hi-tech torus he could heal himself and perhaps “change the world”...

Going up against him is Copley’s venal sleeper agent, Kruger (a surprisingly standard-issue psychobaddie with misogynist streak), who’s working for self-serving Elysium gatekeeper secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster, with distracting roving accent and propensity to flounce).

Also along for the ride: a sidelined Diego Luna; a couple of awesome action set-pieces and gross/inventive SFX moments; recurring sledgehammer sentimentality; and an emotional pay-off that echoes another futuristic tentpoler out this summer.

It’s all accomplished, engaging and goodlooking stuff. But it’s not unique (tonally evoking last year’s Total Recall remake isn’t exactly a plus) or groundbreaking – which, perhaps unfairly, is what’s expected from Blomkamp’s sophomore outing.

Maybe he’s a one-trick pony? Or maybe the edges got knocked off a more daring project by a larger budget and more studio control? (D9 was made for $34m under the mentoring eye of Peter Jackson.)

Either way, this perfectly alright actioner will entertain newcomers, while leaving Blomkamp fans in a holding pattern until his next project.

Verdict:

Slick and stylish, Elysium shines like the space station at its core – and feels as sterile and generic, too.

 

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Film Details

User Reviews

    • AlfredsDream098

      Aug 6th 2013, 15:15

      Damn, i was hoping my eyes deceived me when I saw the magazine photo. Hopefully I will love it but for now I will just sit here and cry Into my can of cat food.

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    • Ali1748

      Aug 6th 2013, 17:55

      3 stars GTFO and yet TF gushes over IM3 which was a 2 star film at best.

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    • H3isenberg

      Aug 6th 2013, 20:20

      Ali1748 - Based on the extended 7 minute preview I saw in the cinema I'm surprised it got three stars. Seems like a perfectly decent review to me

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    • GarthMarenghi

      Aug 7th 2013, 21:14

      That's a bit of a shame. Not totally surprised as it all sounded very samey to me based on the synopsis, but I admire Blomkamp's stance on avoiding franchise pictures, remakes and reboots, so for his sake I hope it is a commercial success. He has good taste as a director, but perhaps only limited tools as a writer.

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    • Hadouken76

      Aug 8th 2013, 8:52

      I will still watch it, despite it sounding formulaic. The old sci-fi staple (rich live at the top , poor live at the bottom ) has been done in the likes of Judge Dredd comics, Demolition man.

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    • batt101

      Aug 8th 2013, 9:40

      I'm still looking forward to Elysium, and who can trust the star ratings TF have been handing out recently!

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    • cineast4

      Aug 8th 2013, 19:05

      yeeah, this is one such film, whered i'd hope reviews from different reviewers from the magazine would be put up at the same time, as this piece sounds almost like its deliberately spiteful towards the film (probably isn't but sounds like the material or genre in general isn't to the reviewers taste) Review was almost definitely picked just to be contrary

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    • spid2411

      Aug 15th 2013, 13:55

      I will still be seeing this despite the lukewarm review here. Total Film have been terrible for reviews of late (Iron Man3 was 2 stars, not 4 and MOS was also 2 stars, not 4) so will see it for myself. ps and TF...Star Trek Into Darkness...2 stars, not 4.

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    • vincevega

      Aug 15th 2013, 14:26

      @spid, agree with you for Iron man, but not MoS was at least 3.5 stars and Star Trek, the same... maybe the reboot 2009 one was a 2 stars but not into darkness. very much looking forward to elysium anyway

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    • spid2411

      Aug 21st 2013, 16:15

      5

      vincevega - go see Elysium. Just saw it and thought it was excellent. The guy has a great visual style so the CGI in his movies looks REAL (the robots are incredible, as are the spacecraft). The narrative was compelling and the actors were all excellent too so to me if you are a fan of quality sci-fi that's not made for kids (there is violence, strong language etc) then you will enjoy this. TF are so inconsistent these days but then it wasn't made by Marvel so they don't need to give it a good review ..

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    • smellyhands

      Aug 23rd 2013, 23:20

      3

      Dialogue - poor Music - Gladiator Visual FX - absolutely incredible Story - meh Characters - all fine except for the clichéd kid with moral advice. Action - top notch if a little too much slow mo.

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    • smellyhands

      Aug 23rd 2013, 23:22

      3

      Thanks TotalFilm for not incorporating paragraphs in your comment section.

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    • Ali1748

      Aug 24th 2013, 18:43

      5

      I have to agree with spid I thought Elysium was pretty spectacular. Neil Blomkamp is such a talented director.

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    • apo1978

      Aug 26th 2013, 12:55

      5

      Neil Blomkamp's District 9 was probably my favourite film of 2009, so I was eagerly awaiting this, his sophomore effort. I was disappointed to see mixed reviews so went in fingers crossed that it was better than I feared. It was! Personally, this type of dystopian sci-fi is right up my street. The effects, design and creativity are all superb and I thought the story was decent. An obvious allegory to asylum seekers and immigration, but well suited as a sci-fi actioner too. Matt Damon is believable as the reluctant hero and Sharlo Copley, orginally the good guy from District 9, is a great villain. Some of the supporting actors let the film down somewhat and Jodie Foster looks a bit uncomfortable as the evil leader of security. However, those are small gripes in what, so far, is one of my favourite films of the year. It's just so damn cool!

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    • carolannemahony

      Sep 7th 2013, 23:28

      4

      Very enjoyable, good action and great special effects. Some of the story was predictable, and I agree that the bit with the child and the storytelling could have been left out; but they also avoided other more obvious and over used heart tugging plot devices. Would definitely recommend.

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    • matthewbrady

      Sep 11th 2013, 21:30

      5

      I really like this movie a lot

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    • zeike

      Sep 13th 2013, 16:48

      3

      Absolutely perfect review!

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    • Jareth64

      Mar 10th 2014, 13:13

      3

      The sycophants giving this 5/5 simply can't face the truth. There's some good action in Elysium, but the plot meanders disastrously, certain characters are pointless, and by the conclusion it's boring and obvious.

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