Elysium DVD Review | Fanboys Anonymous

Elysium DVD Review

Posted by Fellonius Munch Wednesday, January 8, 2014
It's not often you'll find me reviewing a new movie fresh out in cinemas. For one, I'm English, and a lot of my readers tend to get first dibs on box office newbies, being American and such. Second, I almost always end up wanting to punch the gobshites who always talk and kick the back of my seat during a film. If you're one of those people and in the slimmest of chances you happen to see me at a cinema, fear the dark, bastard. Generally speaking, however, I hate cinemas and their prices.

Third, a true film fan doesn't let hype interfere with his or her own chances for enjoyment—unless it's a comedy that you need friends there for, so you know when to laugh, because some comedies are shit like that!

Today, after gauging a lot of impressions, interpretations, and criticisms of this movie since its summer release, I picked up the new DVD release of Elysium, waited for mum to stop making confused old people noises, and relaxed into an impressive two hours of well-spent pocket change.

District 9 director Neill Blomkamp dystopian sci fi action thriller Elysium

Directed by Neill Blomkamp, the South African guy who put Hollywood to shame in 2009 with his debut full-length feature film (yes, I just made that sound dirty) District 9, Elysium is only his second film, and I still do not know of any other director on this Earth who has launched such an attack on the senses in such a short space of time and yet affected anyone with a heart. Gareth Edwards (Monsters) may prove to be a close second, if Godzilla turns out to be as immense as it looks, but get lost, Edwards, this ain't your show!

Heart and soul…grisly, sweaty, brutal, mechanized death-dealing sci-fi with a heart and soul: That is how I would describe Elysium. With all the mind-blowing visual effects of District 9 plus plenty more tricks up its sleeve, this dystopian distant future thriller uses brilliantly executed and stylish action as its vehicle between plot checkpoints.

At its heart, at the center of all its chaos, is the tale of a boy grown up from as good a life as one could expect on an Earth abandoned for the stars by the rich and powerful into a tired ex-convict factory worker who manufactures the droids that keep humanity scared and obedient.

The soul of Elysium is a suicidal journey of selfishness and desperation simply in the hope of survival.

The rich and powerful cheat death and poverty in Neill Blomkamp's Elysium

It is the year 2154, and the rich/poor divide has been driven so far apart that the wealthy now live on the space station Elysium, where the air is clean, the food is pure, and each citizen has access to state-of-the-art medical care that can cure all illnesses and diseases and even just about bring people back from the point of death.

Earth at this time is ruined—overpopulated, polluted to death, crime-ridden, and in a permanent state of martial law. Only the "lucky" few have jobs; two of these are Max (Matt Damon) and Frey (Alice Braga), who grew up together. Frey's daughter is in the last stages of leukemia and dying. Max is forced to risk his life to keep his job at the Armadyne factory and as result is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, shrinking his life expectancy to five days or less.

Desperate to find a way to save his own life, Max chooses to do one last job for his ex-crime boss, Spider, who has been planning a revolution to take Elysium. Standing in his way are Frey and her daughter—whom Max isn't sure he can help—and Kruger (Sharlto Copley), a savage sleeper agent working for Elysium's secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster).

It will take a suicide mission with so slim a chance at success that Max will very likely die trying to cure himself!

Elysium's droid battle scenes
Upon viewing the first half hour of Elysium, I was fondly reminded of just how awesome District 9 was, since I hadn't seen it in about a year. The differences are that Elysium is a lot more lightweight, or "slimline," for a better word. There are no giant spaceships this time around, but there are awesome robots. Otherwise, everything on Earth vividly reminded me of my high school's toilet stalls back in '95.

We have two worlds at war here—the dystopian rubbish tip that is Earth (Los Angeles looking like Somalia out of Black Hawk Down, but with rust bucket futuristic aircraft lining the sky), and the utopian Elysium, which is clean, polished, and beautiful, everything I hate about sci-fi to the point where I'd sooner live in Junkyard, LA.

Elysium's concept of futuristic bionic implants
Earth doesn't have the technology anymore; they barely have the cars. Just like in the Third World, however, they do have the weaponry. That and these nifty exoskeleton power suits that Blomkamp pulled right out of classic Richard Stanley-style cyberpunk horror. This suit is Max's only chance of staying on his feet and fighting for his life, and you truly feel for Damon when you see how they attach that bastard to his brain and spinal column.

Scenes of bloody violence and dismemberment in Elysium
Despite being such a highly anticipated return for Blomkamp and his studio, there is possibly a lot less gore in Elysium. Don't let that get you down; less gore does not mean less effective gore, as you'll find with the realistic example of a man's face being blown off by a hand grenade.

The fights and gun battles (again, reminiscent of District 9, in a good way) are awesome, and what I also loved about this movie was the diversity of characters. The bad guys are truly despicable, but they fall on both sides of the line between dystopia and utopia.

Silence of the Lambs Clarice Starling actress Jodie Foster is Elysium's villain
Delacourt and Carlyle (the wonderful William Fichtner, or Ficky-Wicky as I once drunkenly referred to him) ooze pure rude and pretentious cockiness. They are pristinely dressed and groomed and carry themselves as though they know they cannot be touched.

Jodie Foster seems so emotionally detached at times that I was distracted for a while until I started to feel that this was a very personal role to her, as a lead villain. It seemed like an impression of somebody, or many bodies, that she held a grudge to. There's a bit of Margaret Thatcher, a bit of Steve Jobs, and a bit of worn-out old sociopathic militant feminist. Delacourt might do everything she can to neutralize the threat to her perfect way of life, but deep down, you learn that she despises the rich too.

South African District 9 actor Sharlto as bionic mercenary Kruger in Elysium

Kruger, on the other hand, is thuggish, tyrannical, and outright mentally ill, a true mercenary for the future. Funny that an agent of Elysium is the hungriest, most desperate dog in the yard.

The same sort of description applies in the opposite manner for the heroes and good citizens of Earth. The lowlifes you know will not last long, but even some of the most hardened criminals are pretty nice people, and all because they're all so desperate that they're beyond offing each other gangster-style. Spider, for instance, would have been played by this guy in the '90s…

Squinty-eyed Mexican rent-a-corpse, how we miss you so. But now we have Danny Trejo!

In those days he also would have most definitely met a gruesome end pretty quickly as the leader of the resistance. Instead, Spider becomes quite the hero himself, and I really appreciated the chance for characters who would be villains in any other movie to have the chance to prove themselves heroic.

Matt Damon as Max is fantastic. I felt for him, not just knowing he was dying a horrible death and having to go through every other ordeal (and he really does), but also sensing his sickness through the film's excellent cinematography and editing effects. It never gets to be too much; it's done through necessity. Blomkamp knows the meaning of "too much," unlike so many other filmmakers.

Predators actress Alice Braga must save her daughter in Neill Blomkamp's Elysium
I was also surprised by Alice Braga's turn as Frey. I'm not a fan. She was alright in Predators, but she often feels to me like a modern-day Maria Conchita Alonso. In Elysium, she's quite the ray of sunshine even when she looks absolutely fucking miserable. This movie doesn't have many laughs, but it doesn't need the comic relief. It has a message to deliver to humanity. Braga is very likable as Max's childhood sweetheart and puts a lot of energy into being the mother of a dying child whose hope of survival your best friend has just rejected.

In all, this is a brilliant sci-fi thriller with the perfect mix of action and drama. The ending had me just the slightest bit emotional too. I'd say that it could have been a little smarter, but then, smart films with messages tend to fail with most audiences. It could also have been shorter than 110 minutes, but then the message might have been boring, had it not been lost altogether.

Elysium is most definitely worth the watch, and if you're a fan of sci-fi and action, call it a collector's must-have. It's a nice blend of modern and classic style, and I feel it may be Blomkamp's finest before he possibly chooses the greener pastures of another genre!

Sound off, Fanboys and Fangirls! Did you see Elysium, and what did you think? Comments below and thanks for reading.

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