In 2009, Neil Blomkamp had a dream debut in the world of feature film making. After seeing Blomkamp’s short film Alive in Joburg, King of the Movie Geeks, Peter Jackson, helped produce a feature length version that became District 9. District 9 went onto great financial success, great geek success, and most impressively, great critical success. Something as sci-fi and genre-riffic as District 9 rarely gets Oscar recognition outside of technical awards. But here was Blomkamp, one film in and receiving Academy Award nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. So now, four years later, in the lead up to the release of his follow up, Blomkamp has been under just a little pressure to really deliver with Elysium. And he does.
If you’ve seen District 9
, you know what you’re getting yourself into with Elysium
. That’s not to say I found Elysium
derivative of his debut, or a rehash. What I mean is, Blomkap made such a real, convincing world with District 9
, and has such a unique style and vision, that I feel like the two films are set in the same universe.
A Universe where the titular space station that motivates the people of run down Los Angeles in Elysium
could almost exist on the other side of the same world as the Prawn populated slums of Johanessburg in District 9.
But enough of the District 9 comparisons. Elysium is its own movie and shouldn’t be stuck under its predecessor’s shadow. Matt Damon is Max Da Costa, a former orphan and former car thief who is trying to stay on the straight and narrow, working a mind numbing factory job, building robots that seem to have taken any other job someone like him might be eligible for. It’s the year 2154, the “Haves” live on Elysium, a Garden of Eden space station of clean air, green grass, crystal clear water and a mansion for every person, complete with medibeds that can cure any injury or illness. The “Have Nots” are stuck with Earth. Dirty, desolate, smelly, slummy, depressing old Earth.
After an accident exposes Damon to massive amounts of radiation, he realises the only way to prove his five day life expectancy wrong, is to get onto Elysium and into one of the all curing medibeds. The local black market and cyber kingpin, Spider, recruits Damon for one lost black market job that will lead him to Elysium and a cure. Damon scores a super sweet exo-skeleton for added strength while also scoring a totally badass nemesis in the form of Kruger, a mercenary played by District 9’s Sharlto Copley. Working for Elysium’s Secretary of Defence, Jessica Delacourt, played by Jody Foster, Copley is one of the most terrifying bad guys I’ve seen in a movie in a long, long time, and a million miles away from the bumbling, reluctant hero he played in District 9.
The story and sci-fi inventions of Elysium are a little complicated and convoluted at times, but in a good way. It’s the kind of movie that makes you work a little, but the pay offs make that work more than worthwhile. Some people have said they were disappointed by Elysium compared to District 9, but I’d put them on par. District 9 made Neil Blomkamp someone who I was interested to see what he did next. Elysium puts Neil Blomkamp on my list of directors whose movies I’ll see regardless of genre, stars or subject matter.
Directed By – Neil Blomkamp
Written By – Neil Blomkamp