In the first few minutes, the movie establishes its main narrative – a different version of District 9 wherein the rich left Earth to live in a healthcare utopia. But instead of expanding this near-future dystopia of the haves and have nots, the film shifts into a predictable action movie with a gaping plot hole as big as the circumference of Elysium’s wheel-like structure.
The audience is given an overview of two worlds. Elysium is one big gated community of upper-class citizens in space, each house equipped with a machine that can cure any disease and injury.
On the opposite side is the poverty-stricken overpopulated Earth with a majority of its inhabitants either diseased or permanently injured.
The film doesn’t provide any context for Elysium. All you’ll know is that rich people took all the medical technology into outer space. No clue how the rest of the world takes this. The movie solely exists in L.A., where poor people are so desperate that there’s an industry revolving around smuggling people into Elysium.
What you will know is that ex-convict Max needs to get there by all means. Matt Damon manages to make his character relatable, even though he is one dimensional like the rest – a power-hungry Secretary of Defense played by Jodie Foster, and a violent military guy played by Sharlto Copley.
There are obvious ideas here about classism and extreme wealth gap. But this would require storytelling nuance beyond production design and CGI.
The film chooses to be a predictable underdog-turned-hero story, complete with a love interest, a child to tug at your heartstrings, a crazy villain, and a corporate mastermind.
The physicality of the action scenes looks gritty and there’s nifty high-tech weaponry. This movie takes plenty of liberties with basic anatomy and physiology – a dude with organ failure has a metal exoskeleton literally drilled to his bones. But I guess if you have a magic healing machine the sky’s the limit. Overall, action sequences are neither inventive nor memorable but ample enough for a mediocre blockbuster.
Elysium has good art direction and adequate performances but it’s a disappointing follow-up to District 9. It panders to the socio-economic and political issues that we have today in an attempt to sell a blockbuster movie.
Elysium dumps its potential ideas for a generic macho face-off and predictable underdog-turned-hero story.