Elysium (Neill Blomkamp, 2013)

In terms of a refreshing aesthetic and conceptual sleekness, it goes without saying that District 9 served as a more than adequate debut for Neill Blomkamp, the film in question addressing our planet’s long-standing sociological views while compellingly chronicling the untimely fate of one Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley). Throwing away the mockumentary-style presentation for a more straightforward if comparatively dystopian venture, Elysium heavy-handedly tackles socioeconomic inequality, focusing on underprivileged ne’er-do-well Max (Matt Damon) – a product of his environment that must take extreme measures to combat fatal, workplace-inflicted radiation sickness. Returning to the seedy existence he swore he’d left behind if only to make something of himself, Max embarks upon an obstacle-laden journey to Elysium – the fabled man-made space station that harbors the wealthy, moreover his own cure as well as salvation for all those left on a dying Earth.

Before I get ahead of myself, yes, Elysium is in fact largely bereft of any subtlety regarding its thin thematic substance, what with all you can expect from it being ostentatiously presented throughout more recent trailers and television spots. Does that make it a bad film? Not at all, and it’s Blomkamp’s admirable gusto in following through with these shallower intentions that make it enjoyable for what it is. Recycling the eye-catching, heavily lived-in futuristic aesthetic employed throughout District 9, Elysium does wonders with its attention to detail, more specifically the discernible differences between poor and rich accommodations, available resources and varying bits of technology. It’s this adherence to the film’s inorganic physicality that further solidifies Blomkamp as a man with a unique and unprecedented vision – one benchmarked by plausible if purposely overemphasized dramatic hardships.

Despite this intricate artistic nature, Elysium as a whole is the summer blockbuster you’ve been waiting with bated breath for. While the social unrest due to Elysium’s continued spurning of Earth’s general populace leads to many a bout of action-oriented conflict, the film’s action-oriented bits are among the best and most competently filmed you’ll see this year. Inflicted shock via unflinching gore will turn off some, however this brutality just feels warranted and suits the overall mood well enough as Max and his new hydraulic-heavy exoskeleton blast through opposition.

As for Elysium‘s humanistic attritbutes, key relationships only exist only to barely stir up emotions within us as viewers – these mechanics remaining serviceable in their contribution to the narrative, Max’s barebones backstory doing enough to keep us engaged. Although a majority of other criticisms will come about as a result of blatant comparison between the two, Elysium as a whole is a modest follow-up to District 9, Blomkamp’s latest establishing itself as another evocative vision of a ravaged ignorance-generated human existence. It’s intelligent by way of this wholly-encompassing aesthetic, the familiarity and foreseeable outcome of the central conflict and narrative’s trajectory rendered forgivable in the long run. Pair this deft presentation with an always pleasing turn from Damon and you’ll agree that Elysium functions very well just as it is.

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