Elysium - Review

wogma rating: Buy the DVD already (?)
quick review:

Neill Blomkamp's Elysium is similar in feel and treatment to District 9, albeit on a grander scale. Despite some obvious problems, particularly the predictable path the film takes, it makes for a fair big screen watch.

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Update

It's always nice to have DVD features that provide you with an insight into what it really took to make the film. Luckily, the DVD of Elysium at least does some justice on that front. The DVD has two decent featurettes related to the film.

The first one, titled 'Collaboration: Crafting the Performances in Elysium', has the director, Neill Blomkamp, as well as some others, talk about the primary cast of the film - Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley. Roughly 13 minutes long, it talks about how they were chosen, what went into their characters and performances.

The second, about 12 minutes long, is called 'Engineering Utopia: Creating a Society in the Sky'. It talks about how Elysium, the utopian world located off Earth in the film, was conceptualized and designed. It reminds you of just how tough filmmaking is, particularly when crafting something as visually spectacular as Elysium.

Most importantly, both features give us a peek into the mind of Neill Blomkamp. His penchant for talking about current world issues while using a dystopian future as a setting is exciting enough; the fact is that he is an indie filmmaker at heart, and one with a very strong voice at that. The thought he put into the cast and into the design of his film highlights this really well.

The DVD has no Indian language options unfortunately, which would have been an added bonus. The film itself makes for a fair home video watch, and is actually the kind of film that seems better on the second watch - a sign that the film truly has layers.

*

No matter how far into the future or how far back in the past a film is set, the core values that drive characters and their motivations remain quite the same. Greed, ambition, delusions of self-importance, love and sacrifice; cinematic portayals of these will always evoke an emotional response. That's what lies at the heart of Neill Blomkamp's latest film, Elysium.

Set in the year 2154, the film - like so many others in the recent past - shows a dystopian Earth in shambles because of disease and poverty. The rich, of course, have a solution to this - a plush, artificial satellite world named Elysium; a world that has its own governance and system of control over the less fortunate. Max is one of the lowly citizens of Earth, one who has always dreamed of living on Elysium instead.

In terms of look and production, Elysium is a clear notch above Blomkamp's highly acclaimed and quite terrific film District 9 - which was also set in a dystopian future. Also, quite like how District 9 spoke about a serious issue plaguing humanity - social segregation - and the potential threat that increasing dependence on private funding can pose, Elysium too looks at very real problems facing humankind today - class divides and the power that a select few have by virtue of their financial superiority.

Seen through the prism of a time that seems so distant to us, the depiction of the disparity and contrast between the haves and the haves-not might seem a little extreme in the film, if you don't pause to look at how it is actually a very serious reflection of society as it stands today. Isn't Antilla, for example, a current day version of Elysium?

The question, "How rich is too rich," just has no answer today. In Blomkamp's futuristic, ultra-beautiful, lens-flared universe this question is underlined further. The poor obviously want more, but the rich want even more. Money, power, control; those who have even some of it want all of it.

Then again, Elysium also has within it the message that there is still hope; and cinema itself has in it the power to effortlessly instill that hope in us. There is the ability to love, to feel, and to give anything up for the sake of a loved one. Despite the predictable turns that the film takes, it largely works because of the incredible detailing in Blomkamp's vision of the future, some electric hand combat fight scenes, and because of the key actors in Elysium.

There are very few actors like Jodie Foster. She can radiate a warm, feminine presence with as much ease as she can seem cold, cunning, calculative and cruel. In Elysium, she falls into the latter category, and though the character itself is one she can easily sleepwalk through, that doesn't make it any less effective. Matt Damon, who plays Max, once again assumes a physical personality to go with his character, and he is good as always. He has to virtually carry the film on his shoulders, and he pulls it off convincingly. The remainder of the cast, however, is seldom anything more than functional.

Elysium, quite like its namesake haven for the rich in the film, is by no means perfect. Despite its breakneck pace, it seems far longer than its runtime of 111 minutes. Its rather linear graph serves its purpose, but doesn't grab you and hook you the way you would have liked, considering the sheer scale of the visuals. Also - and this is a problem that most futuristic sci-fi films face - the depiction and usage of some of the technology strikes more than a few false notes.

Even if you account for the liberty that a sci-fi film is invariably allowed to take, there are still logical loopholes in some of the tech, apart from the many times you wonder that if they could manage technology as complex as that, then why couldn't they manage something as simple as this.

Despite the niggles, Elysium makes for a fun big screen watch. You might as well watch it today, because you never quite know what tomorrow has in store.

This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Action and violence galore.
  • Language: Aggressive but clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None
  • Concept: A man dreams for a better life in a dystopian future.
  • General Look and Feel: Futuristic, bright and beautifully lit.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

  • Direction: 3.5
  • Story: 3
  • Lead Actors: 3.5
  • Character Artists: 3
  • Dialogues: 3
  • Screenplay: 3
  • Music Director: 3
  • Lyrics:

Elysium - Movie Details

Elysium - Trailer

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