In the 2020s When you see a sci-fi movie stacked with a bunch of Hollywood A-lists, there’s at least a 50 percent chance that you’re dealing with some kind of franchise — an MCU flick, maybe, or at least a powerhouse how dune. In other words, it seems unlikely that a film like this would be made today. Or, if it were, that it was anything but a prestigious Amazon Prime sci-fi series, with a much less star-studded cast.
However, Neill Blomkamp’s sequel followed in 2013 district 9 had the star power to spare. The movie just came out on Netflix too, and it’s better than you remember.
With Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, Elysium has not only touted two Hollywood stars, but also future sci-fi icons Diego Luna (Cassian in Star Wars: Andor, Rogue One) and Adrian Holmes (Robert April in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.) Watching it today, it’s hard to understand why this film hasn’t been watched anymore. Although Damon would briefly become the official “serious sci-fi movie actor.” Interstellar (2014) and The Martian (2015), of these three consecutive films, it is the best Elysium — even if Interstellar is the slightly better movie.
Elysium depicts a fairly simple (and somewhat plausible nowadays) future scenario: most of Earth’s people live in extreme poverty, while the rich and privileged relax in a beautiful space station called Elysium. In addition to the huge wealth gap between the privileged few and the miserable majority, Blomkamp’s screenplay also articulates health Gap. It turns out that miraculous medicines are among the resources hoarded by the people of Elysium. This disparity sets the plot in motion as Max (Damon) has to heal from severe radiation poisoning. What follows is a pretty straight forward heist in which Max makes a deal with a hacker named Spider (Wagner Moura) to sneak into Elysium and get cured. Straight out in a cyberpunk twist johnny mnemonics, There is also some secret data in Max’s head that everyone is obsessed with.
Regarding a mainstream sci-fi movie, Elysium feels slightly ahead of its time in that aesthetics predict the look and feel of contemporary shows western world. On the other hand, if you were a cyberpunk fan, Elysium probably felt like a throwback to 2013, complete with familiar imagery from William Gibson novels and The Matrix. There’s a bit of a ’90s hacker movie vibe fused with a space-action vibe that’s at times incongruous. And that despite the fact that Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi social commentary was spot on district 9the moral history in Elysium is something more in the nose.
But that’s the curse of Elysium: It came out between Blomkamp’s best sci-fi film (District 9) and his absolute worst sci-fi movie (CHAPPIE). This sandwich probably explains why it’s been forgotten – or at least underestimated – all along.
The film’s core holds up surprisingly well, and the performances make up for any inconsistent world-building. It’s hard to argue that we need more stories set in the world of Elysium, there is something appealing about the contrasting aesthetic that Blomkamp presents. The premise of Elysium feels like an old-fashioned sci-fi trope, but the juxtaposition of one human world as clean and perfect and the other as grim and subdued really works here. The film’s resolution feels rushed (no spoilers!), but it’s also hard to imagine a satisfying version of this film ending any differently.
Elysium is an action film in a dystopian cyberpunk setting that Yes, really wants to be an aspiring sci-fi allegory. It doesn’t quite excel in any of those categories, but it doesn’t fail either. It has more heart than western world and more style than The Martian. It’s no masterpiece, but as solid sci-fi cinema goes, Elysium deserves another look.
Elysium now streaming on Netflix.