Writer/director Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 feature debut District 9 received a lot of acclaim for being a sci-fi action thriller with strong political undercurrents. The initial word on his greatly-anticipated follow-up Elysium has been that the sci-fi and action elements are present, but the metaphorical power is lacking. In this reviewer’s opinion, it wasn’t the allegorical aspects that made District 9 sing, it was the fact that you cared about the characters. That’s all fanboys want in their crazy-ass movies – to care. This aspect of Blomkamp’s filmmaking prowess is very present in Elysium.
The allegorical aspects are also present – building on observations about the 1% versus the rest of us and concerns about availability to health care. But Elysium works because Blomkamp makes sure you care about the protagonists and their fate – it’s all too rare an achievement in genre cinema.
The kick-ass action and brain-tickling future tech doesn’t hurt either – there is no director working today who has a better grasp of sci-fi action, including James Cameron. Blomkamp is also unmatched in infusing his sci-fi settings with grit and wear – the tagging and spray paint on everything here rings particularly true. The titular space habitat in Elysium of course lacks grit, but that’s the point of the movie. I was dazzled by every shot of the spinning ‘torus’ style space station, but I would’ve liked to have seen a little more of it.
Elysium doesn’t quite build on the dazzling potential of District 9, but it doesn’t fail the previous film either. Blomkamp has crafted another superior sci-fi action thriller that demands emotional investment – I felt every moment here, and I can’t wait to do so again, over and over.
‘Elysium’ Movie Times