‘Elysium’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 9th, 2014 at 6:55 pm,

Elysium Reviews starring Matt Damon Jodie Foster Sharlto Copley and Alice Braga Elysium Review

Elysium is a disappointment when viewed as a follow up to District 9.

Elysium transports us into the year 2154, where Earth has become a Third World ghetto planet where the poor and downtrodden reside, while the wealthy elite have moved off-planet into the pristine and technologically advanced orbital community known as “Elysium.” Enter Max de Costa (Matt Damon), an ex-felon working a dead-end blue collar job. One day while on said job, Max is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, leaving him with just five days (and a lot of desperation) to make it to Elysium where a cure awaits.

In order to make his journey, Max is recruited by a local gang, who outfit him with an exoskeleton capable of helping him break into the most secure place in the universe. However, Max’s scheme snowballs into a larger plot, and when Elysium’s Secretary of Defense, Delacourt (Jodie Foster), gets wind of the plan, she activates her secret police force to bring down the perpetrators – a pack of wolves led by the ruthless and cunning Agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley). Before long, Max is in over his head, with Kruger on his tail and a mission that quickly changes focus when an old friend (Alice Braga) asks for Max’s help in saving her dying daughter.

Jodie Foster in Elysium1 Elysium Review

Jodie Foster in ‘Elysium’

Writer/director Neil Blomkamp made a splash with his first feature-film, District 9, combining some self-styled technical wizardry with a timely socio-political story to create one of the more innovative and relevant sci-fi movie experiences of the last decade. Set against that impressive achievement, expectations for Elysium are high – but does the movie live up to the hype? In short answer: only halfway.

As both writer and director of his sophomore effort, Blomkamp must be held accountable for both the great and terrible halves of this conflicted whole. On the directorial side, Blomkamp continues to demonstrate real filmmaking creativity and innovation, bringing to life the world of 2154 in vivid, grounded, realness. From the filth-ridden conditions of Earth to the pristine setting of Elysium, this is a world that is well realized, with visual effects that put a lot of other films to shame.

Matt Damon and Sharlto Copley in Elysium Elysium Review

Matt Damon in ‘Elysium’

In terms of action, Blomkamp’s talent is second to none when it comes to creative design and implementation of weaponry and gadgetry. It’s a real shame that Elysium is so painfully short on action (just one or two scenes, really), because in the moments where we do get it, it is unlike just about any other cinematic experience out there – though quite like many of the most popular video games played today (in a good way). Like so many other directors of today, though, Blomkamp could stand to pull back and give his audience better view of the fight sequences; but again, the uniqueness of the world and technology makes up for deficiencies in the filmmaking technique. On the whole, Elysium is a very impressive directorial endeavor, and (visually speaking) is well enjoyed in full IMAX splendor.

Now for the rub: The story, characters, and overall thematic and/or metaphorical point of the film are all poorly conceived and implemented. In terms of story, Elysium is all over the place with its focus, full of plot holes and strange idiosyncrasies, and fails in the principal task of selling its protagonist (Max) in convincing fashion. Who to care about and how to feel about them are questions that plague the narrative, and the third act just unravels completely into a race-and-chase sequence whose grand payoff is a hoodwink effort of paper-thin ideological fantasy.

Elysium in Elysium 2013 Elysium Review

Indeed, the much talked-about themes and metaphors about economic inequality come in and out of focus as the narrative takes its detours through the many subplots of its many secondary characters (read: distractions), resulting in muddied arcs that are not even interesting to the characters themselves. Worst of all, the heavy-handed thematics of the ending preach a message that anyone with a middle school degree could poke holes in; Elysium tries to say something profound, forgets to make its point half the time, and ends up just saying something naively fantastical. Worst of all, it’s not even much fun. The narrower focus of District 9 seems better suited to Mr. Blomkamp’s scripting abilities; this script – with all its lofty ambitions – got away from him.

Caught in the middle are a cast of actors who mostly look unsure of who they should be playing, and how they should be playing them – with the exception of Sharlto Copley, who has a manic good time playing the unhinged Kruger. When Kruger is on the screen (whether in action or monologue), Elysium is crackling with a good, menacing villain; when Kruger is not on the screen, Elysium loses just about any spark it has (both literally and figuratively). Copley is just energetic enough to carry things –  even when his character’s motivations and personality are a vague mess.

Sharlto Copley as Kruger in Elysium Elysium Review

Sharlto Copley in ‘Elysium’

Damon, Braga and Foster’s characters, on the other hand, are all over the place. Foster sports a distracting accent (French? German?) as her character floats listlessly through the narrative with little significance; Damon tries to pull off his  arc as earnestly as possible, but there is no solid foundation (read: good writing) under his feet, and Max’s act-to-act persona shifts are unearned and are hardly relatable or engaging. Braga’s character decisions and motivations also seem vague and inorganic – clearly the contrivances of a scriptwriter trying (and failing) to stitch larger overarching concepts to more personal character drama. As honorable mention, there are some sufficient supporting turns from character actors like William Fichtner (Lone Ranger), Diego Luna (Contraband) and Jose Pablo Cantillo (The Walking Dead) that help prop up the solid middle section of the film.

It is hard to discuss Blomkamp’s second effort without some mention of his first, and in that sense, Elysium is a disappointment when viewed as a follow up to District 9It is way too early to start making (the inevitable) M. Night Shyamalan comparisons; Blomkamp is, no doubt, still a highly-skilled, unique and innovative directing talent. However, in carving out an early niche as a maker of sci-fi films with very insightful and important real-world things to say, Blomkamp has also placed heavy demands on himself as both a director and writer responsible for creating the best possible halves to that complicated formula. Elysium only gets the formula half-right.

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Elysium is now in theaters. It is 109 minutes and is Rated-R for strong bloody violence and language throughout.

Want to discuss Elysium without ruining the movie for others? Join our Elysium spoilers discussion. Want to hear the SR editors discuss the film? Tune in to the Elysium episode of the SR Underground Podcast.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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  1. “Who to care about and how to feel about them are questions that plague the narrative”

    this describes almost every single movie made in the last couple years.

  2. This movie sucks ,,, it was over befor the popcorn got cold !!! There was one good scene whn the guys face gets regenerated but that was it its worth a video rental when you have nothing to do and you have a free rental, it reminds me of district 9 and repo all in one heap of what is going on I’m lost wait is he dead is she dead oh she is better now, a cyborg a space station and can I get a refund sums it up!!!!

  3. So a beautifully directed movie gets a lower rating than a POS like Pacific Rim? Yes some issues with the writing, but there is zero consistency in the reviews from his site. Pacific Rim had horrible acting and a piss poor script. I still think you guys do a great job, but the review scores leave me wondering.

  4. it was horrible. Massive disappointment. Some good visuals, but nothing ground breaking. Story weak, characters weak, acting weak, plot easy to predict, not original.


  5. i give it a 3/5 it was average at best

  6. I still don’t see how 2 and 1/2 out of 5 is “fairly good”. Using that scale you have to get into negative numbers to be considered bad.

  7. I have to hand it to screenrant. Even when a movie sucks balls, they’re still too intimidated by the liberal Hollywood Crazy Train to just come right out & be unapologetic saying so.

  8. I have to ask what the heck happened to Screen Rant lately? It used to be a place where people could have passionate intelligent exchanges on movies.

    Now we have a bunch of people commenting with the intellectual depth of “my team is better than your team”.

    It’s really sad.

  9. This was crap, lazy writing made this super predictable. You can save your money and buy some p0rn.

    • why buy porn? … if is free online lol

  10. kruger was the BEST character
    the actor was astounding playing him

  11. Just seen this and I have no idea which film screen rant or anyone else that didn’t like this was watching but for me, Elysium was awesome! some of the best sci-fi I’ve ever seen, I thought it was much better than District 9, id give it a 4/5 easy..

  12. And only two and a half stars??!! way too harsh screen rant!

  13. This was just plain awful, in every sense of the word. Having a face reconstructed is a good excuse to show off CGI, but trying to justify it by saying he still has ‘brain functionality’ ?? Puh-lease…

  14. (Fairly Good) like your review.
    It deserve at least 3.5/5 why so much hate in the reviews lately ?

    • I didn’t see any hate. Just honest criticism. Honestly, fanboys are like religious zealots regarding your particular obsessions. Anything other than worship and praise is labeled as hate. It’s not an all-or-nothing deal.

  15. Elysium is not a movie, it’s a parody of a serious, well-thought-out sci-fi movie about the haves and the have nots. Also, if not for the star power of Jodie Foster and Matt Damon, this movie that the SyFy channel would show at 2am. I can’t blame Foster or Damon for getting the big payday, but in this film they play caricatures, not characters. The villain is also not quite believable. It’s as if he looks into the camera and says, “I’m going to the stuff that you see most bad guys do in a film'”.

  16. …don’t expect a D9 movie comparison in excellence; ‘cuz you probably won’t get it.
    the movie is predictable, makes daemon … look terrible, and really is under rated for “action.”

    help give your opinion, the movie is awesome in its few, very few moments, but not as a whole.

  17. A rather harsh review for a very decent film. If it had a little more character development I would heva scored it the full five stars but even so it got four from me… It beat Oblivion into touch as far as 2013 sci-fi is concerned but didn;t quite reach the dixxy heights of Into Darkness for me… Anyway its well worth seeing if you like the atmosphere of District 9.

  18. My thoughts about the movie: I actually dozed off in between, for a while. If that explains. Many people have been raving about the movie because of the graphics etc. – I am sorry but good graphics alone do not make a good movie.

    I felt the movie was quite predictable and the graphics did not inspire me.

    One take away: Didn’t Jodie Foster look like Christine Lagarde? :) (Former Finance Minister of France – Current chief of International Monetary Fund)

  19. Whomever was the in charge of the look and feel of this movie should have gotten an award because that’s what really carries the narrative that is hobbled by a lot of socio-political nonsense.

    • That would be the director. And the guy who did the design for Blade Runner. This movie kicks ass.

  20. The story is so heavy-handed and predictable that it makes the film–which is visually excellent, a predictable bore. It’s as if a precocious-third-grade child of a community organizer won a prize for writing a space movie about immigration, and their uncle with “Hollywood connections” convinced someone to make a high budget movie about it. The whole time you just want to say, “that’s such a good story dear–and to think, you’re only in third grade,” and wait for the kid to leave the room so you can laugh to yourself, roll your eyes and, turn it off. . .