Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

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In Neill Blomkamp’s action packed dystopian sci-fi movie, the people living in slums on a polluted earth enviously look up to Elysium, the space station retreat of the ultra-wealthy, were all their illnesses could be cured at the wave of a hand. After a work accident, Max da Costa, a factory labourer on probation for some crimes he did and some crimes he didn’t commit, joins forces with a local crime lord and human smuggler with an altruistic streak in order to get to Elysium and save himself – though he has to agree to one for-profit job first… 

Sometimes you just want to sit down at the end of a long day and watch people in the future blow each other up. And at those times, good enough is good enough. Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium perfectly fits that bill. I wouldn’t say it’s worth inviting friends over to watch it together, but as a well-executed mindless sci-fi action blockbuster, it is more than passable.

In a sense that’s a pity, because we know Blomkamp can do better. I haven’t seen District 9 (Blomkamp’s much more favourably reviewed movie) in a long time, so a direct comparison between it and Elysium would be unfair, but I felt the earlier District 9 was the better of the two movies by a long shot. Similar themes (worth exploring!) run between the two movies, with the oppression of the ‘have not’s by the ‘haves’ being a focal point in both; I just felt that it was executed a bit ham-fisted in Elysium.

For me, that was the core issue: Elysium was let down mostly by its script (another let-down was Jodie Foster’s performance, but then, I didn’t feel she had a lot to work with). The script falls short in several ways: We don’t really know why our protagonist became a criminal and his childhood friend didn’t. There is no exploration of the political struggle for emancipation of Earth’s poor, or at least of the more sympathetic faction of the Elysium government. We don’t know why the antagonists are as evil as they are, and what they have to lose by allowing the protagonists to reach their goals. The ideas were cool , but the movie would have had to cut a lot of action scenes in order for the free up runtime to explore these more interesting issues.

What we are left with is a decent sci-fi, borderline cyberpunk, action spectacle. Action scenes and special effects are entertaining enough, but I found the movie faded from memory almost immediately after the credits started rolling. Elysium could have been thought-provoking, but ended up being eye candy and nothing more. Then again, sometimes, that is good enough.

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