South African writer/ director Neill Blomkamp made a huge splash with his debut sci-fi film, “District 9.” Entertainment Weekly called the 2009 film “madly original, cheekily political, [and] altogether exciting.” They also called it “a thinking person’s sci-fi movie from an inventive director.” I was a fan.
Now, Blomkamp’s follow up is here. In “Elysium,” now in theaters, Matt Damon plays Max, an ex-con and orphan with a heart of gold. He lives in near-future Los Angeles, which has become a sprawling, crime-filled ghetto overwhelmingly populated by Hispanics who are policed by robot policemen.
Hovering above Earth’s atmosphere, however, is Elysium, a space station for the wealthy elite where everything is fabulous and every home comes complete with a medical pod that can cure anything from a broken bone to cancer.
As you can bet, its every Los Angelite’s dream to proverbially border-hop across space, crash onto Elysium and enjoy some of the luxury — especially if they happen to be sick. In fact, a workplace accident lands Max in that very predicament. He’s dying of radiation poisoning, but if he can just breach Elysium’s impressive security protocols, then two seconds in one of those med pods will save his life.
At first, Max is out to save only himself, but this electric action film unveils a believable transformation of his motives. Next thing you know, he’s a super soldier, outfitted with robotic enhancements and trying desperately to save the world.
Let me go ahead and get this out of the way: I’m a fan!
I had plenty to be critical of however. First and foremost, I hated the handheld cameras. I’ve never been seasick in my life, but it almost happened during my viewing.
Secondly, while Jodie Foster’s diabolical villain, Delacourt, was well-acted, I would have loved to see a little more dimension and background to her character.
Third, I’ve got to warn you about the gore. There was violence in “District 9,” but I felt there it was used like a finely honed sword. Here, they may be pandering just a little to summer blockbuster junkies.
I enjoyed the dehumanizing elements Blomkamp envisions for the near future, like robot parole officers who don’t take any lip. And Blomkamp’s childhood buddy Sharlto Copley, star of “District 9,” is back in a mind-blowing way. He’s amazing to watch and so epic that his role begs for a prequel.
Just don’t overthink “Elysium.” It isn’t quite as smart as “District 9,” and if you start thinking about politics your opinion may get skewed.