Blomkamp creates a futuristic sci-fi paradise in Elysium


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After his 2009 feature film directorial debut “District 9,” a follow up film (sequel or otherwise) from writer-director Niell Blomkamp was expected. With the release of “Elysium,” staring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Diego Luna and Sharlto Copley, that expectation was fulfilled, and Blomkamp’s reputation as a filmmaker has been preserved.

Set in the year 2154, the film begins with a look at the fantastical world that is Elysium, a space station floating above a desolate Earth. Earth resembles a war-torn wasteland; the planet’s surface no longer sports the luscious green plains it once did when viewed from space; overpopulated areas cluttered with deteriorating public housing buildings are all the eye can see from the surface. Max Da Costa (Damon), an ex-con in the midst of correcting his life, is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation in a workplace accident. Max is given five days to live with no cure available to him on Earth — the only cure is on Elysium. Max’s fight to get off the surface of the planet and up to Elysium is violent and his sacrifices are abundant. With the help of an old friend (Luna) and a local revolutionary gang leader, Max is fitted with an exoskeleton that will help him on his journey. Up on Elysium, an overthrow of power is in the works as well. Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt (Foster) schemes to take power out of the hands of Elysium’s current president and place it into her own with the help of a ruthless commissioned agent on Earth (Copley).

“Elysium” is a fantastic film. Much like “District 9,” the film is supported with a solid story that touches on class separation, immigration and healthcare, but is also visually appealing. At the beginning of the film, it is established that the privileged live on Elysium — where there is no sickness or violence — while the rest of the human race is left behind on Earth where the air is polluted, the resources are dwindling and rules are scarce. Any attempts to leave the planet and infiltrate Elysium are met with brutal force. Spacecrafts filled with innocent women and children are gunned down. The medical support on Earth isn’t enough to care for the number of sick individuals that flood the clinics, yet on Elysium there are machines that can cure virtually anything.

Blomkamp captures all the minute details of a life lived within a slum — the high criminal rate, the begging children, the sick and injured individuals that cannot receive the assistance they need, the overall diminishing quality of life and the importance of having a reputation. At one point in the movie, Max is reminded by a friend that he “used to be a legend.” Blomkamp creates a wonderful paradise on the space station — the new habitat contains palm trees and clear blue pools, white mansions and beautiful people (not unlike a modern day Beverly Hills). Blomkamp’s use of a near future society set in South Africa (which, notably, is the auteur’s birthplace) in District 9 and mirrored to fit Los Angeles in “Elysium” is a terrific exposition of the class separation previously seen in South Africa between its black and white citizens with plenty of the same physical characteristics.

“District 9,”considered a sleeper hit, was met with immense critical acclaim and was nominated for four Academy Awards in 2010, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects and Best Editing. So far “Elysium” has been hit with mixed reviews. What was an anticipated movie unfortunately did not live up to the hype for many critics and doesn’t seem to be a real Oscar contender just yet.