In an age when so many sci-fi movies are really just big dumb action flicks with aliens or superheroes, it’s nice when someone tries to do something a little deeper. Unfortunately for director Neill Blomkamp, one bad idea undermines all of the good ones in his new movie, Elysium.
In the year 2154, the haves live on Elysium, a clean, white space station, while the have-nots live on the surface in squalor. Adding insult to injury, the space station is equipped with medical beds that can instantly cure any disease or condition, while those below are stuck with inferior medicines and treatments. Which becomes a real problem for Max DeCosta (Matt Damon) when he’s irradiated in a workplace accident and only has a few days to live. Unless, of course, he can make it to Elysium.
All of which probably sounds like both a ripping yarn and a cautionary tale, especially since it comes from the guy who also co-wrote and directed District 9. It’s just too bad he didn’t think it through.
The big issue — and it’s one that, if you can’t get past, will ruin the movie for you — is that there’s no roof on the space station. Which initially works for the story, since it’s how people from the surface are able to land their space ships and get into the space station illegally, but it doesn’t make any sense since not having a roof would mean the station’s atmosphere would dissipate. And once you realize this, the whole thing collapses.
What makes it worse is that this is an easily solved problem. All Blomkamp needed to do is add a force field to the station, one that would keep in the roof while allowing refugee ships to pass through with, say, a stolen code. Problem solved.
There are other issues with the film, of course, but most are just minor things that may not even bother you. Like Jodi Foster’s terrible and ill-fitting accent, which seems to serve no purpose.
It’s just too bad about the roof. Were it not for that, Elysium would’ve been the smartest sci-fi flick since, well, District 9. Damon is quite good, as he always is, while Sharlto Copley (District 9, The A-Team) is rather menacing as a mercenary tasked with stopping Max by any means necessary. It also has some great special effects, even if Elysium does look like it was designed by the same architects who built The Citadel in the Mass Effect games.
More importantly, while this could’ve easily been a simple chase flick, Blomkamp’s script takes a longer and more interesting path, one with a bit of intrigue that a lesser screenwriter would’ve rejected in favor of something more obvious. It’s just too bad he didn’t think just a bit harder about the science of the space station.
What do you think of this movie (or my review of it)? Please let me know in the comments below.