Elysium is yet another take on the eternal struggle of the haves vs. the have nots. It’s a tale as old as boy meets girl, and there’s something in the human spirit that always roots for the underdog. And Elysium isn’t really a pro-liberal policy polemic as much as it is an anti-government and anti-corporatist one. Heck, when you get right down to it, so was Star Wars.
The film touches on themes of the constant surveillance state, immigration, the widening chasm between the rich and the poor, and the militarization of domestic security. But it’s biggest underlying theme is health care – how the have nots don’t have the same access to health care that wealth and status buy.
But if all that bugs you, well then, you get Matt Damon in an exo-suit battle with a crazed off-the-books soldier. And that just turns out to be pulpy, punky fun in the midst of all the current events metaphors, especially near the end when Sharlto Copley hams it up with an accent that veers dangerously close to making you laugh.
Speaking of accents, while it’s always a personal pleasure to see Jodie Foster, her shifting accent very nearly spoiled it for me. She’s a great actress so I can’t fathom that she had trouble with what initially sounds French, then British, then American, unless it was a conscious choice that somehow failed to register in the story.
Neill Blomkamp, who surprised people with his last film, District 9, drives this movie all over the road… but never goes off it, which is an accomplishment. There’s a plot that’s complex enough, there’s story, there’s action, and there’s a brief, quiet moment with a little girl right in the middle that causes everything to stop, and serves to bring your attention into hyper focus.
The bow that wraps things up at the end may be a little too neat, but all in all, it’s a good movie, and the audience I saw it with responded with strong applause. It’s not a great movie, but so many of them these days are crap that it looks better than it probably is. Personally, I’d rate it a little better than District 9.
Three and a half space stations out of five.