When promo trailers for Matt Damon’s new movie “Elysium” started popping up in front of movies and on TV, needless to say, I wasn’t sold. I lumped it in with “Pacific Rim” on my list of movies that I really wasn’t all that ecstatic to see on the summer movie slate. It looked more along the lines of something that should have existed within the cemetery of movies in January through March, or, with its underlying class rivalry and environmental message, could have been an awards bid, instead of competing with superheroes for audience time.
The premise of “Elysium” isn’t new in its dystopian future outlook. In 2154, the rich and privileged have left the surface of Earth, ravaged from overpopulation and overuse of resources, and established a haven on Elysium, a satellite paradise a mere 19 minute shuttle ride away into orbit. On Elysium, it’s a perpetual cocktail party and when illness strikes, residents can lay in a med-bay and heal all that ails them, even age. The med-bays are a draw for the diseased residents on Earth, who pay for a seat on a shuttle that is almost guaranteed to not make it to Elysium, so long as Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) has her finger on the trigger.
When Max(Matt Damon) is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, he makes a deal with the man running the shuttles in order to secure himself a rise to Elysium. He finds himself with a metal exoskeleton literally screwed into him and sets off on his mission against a now less than pleased Delacourt, who sends mercenary Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to apprehend Max and bring him to Elysium. From exploding people to blown up faces, the cat and mouse game between the two is not a pretty sight, but is one of the better character rivalries in recent weeks.
The acting from the likes of Damon and Foster is truthfully an afterthought when put in the world Blomkamp has created. From the sights of a Los Angeles turned into a third world country to the paradise that is Elysium, the movie is not short on sight-pleasing effects. Those effects have a darker side when it comes to the conflict between the two sides, with the director not being shy when it comes to the shock of exploding bodies and the smaller hand to hand fights between Max and Kruger lending its own cringing hits.
Director Neill Blomkamp also wrote this movie, as a follow up to his 2009 film “District 9,” which also featured Copley. Again, he layers his sci-fi setting with message upon metaphor, from the class division resulting in the upper class literally living a world away, to a conversation on universal healthcare to whether our current stewardship of the planet is ultimately leading to our own destruction, all bearing the marks of our current political climate.
“Elysium” lands in the high-B area for me. It was a great movie, with a thought provoking message, but between you and me, the first exploding body was well enough for me, and it will be for those who are no great fans of excessive blood, and it doesn’t put all that new of a twist on the dystopian genre like it had hoped to. “Elysium” is rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout.