I consider Neill Blomkamp's DISTRICT 9 to be one of the best sci-fi movies of the last decade. It was fun, well-crafted and had a smart message to go along with it, suggesting that Blomkamp was a director to watch. Perhaps that's why I can't help but feel a little disappointed in ELYSIUM.
As your standard summer action film, it's fine. There are some cool ideas and memorable moments, and Blomkamp does a great job at world building with his idea of an allegorical future. However, as a film it's a mess, especially compared to how well-handled DISTRICT 9 was.
The big issue is the story and script, which has a fine central idea but poorly thought out everything else. If you stop to really think about almost every decision and plot point you'll be met with plenty of narrative holes and lots of "Wait, why wouldn't they just…" That's fine for a popcorn blockbuster, but not the movie ELYSIUM strives to be. The social themes of immigration and economic disparity are also heavy handed to the point of near-awkwardness. Even the terrible childhood flashbacks feel like the tactics of an amateur filmmaker, not the smart, confident visionary who made DISTRICT 9.
The top notch cast, clearly excited to work with Blomkamp, aren't immune to these flaws either. Matt Damon is in peak physical shape and believable in the action elements, but his character is painted as a boring "hero" non-entity. His emotional subplots, involving a childhood romance and pre-destined greatness, are bland and stock characterizations. The same goes for Jodie Foster's laughably EVIL Defense Secretary (and her baffling accent) and William Fichtner's Generic Corporate Bad Guy.
Let's talk about the good. Visually, ELYSIUM looks great and the effects are fantastic. There may not be as many cool "holy sh*t!" moments as with DISTRCT 9, but there are at least two exciting, well-executed scenes that will please any sci-fi or action fan. And then there is Sharlto Copley's badass villain Kruger, who, while wildly over the top, is at least an interesting, original creation. And Copley just runs with it, making an effortlessly memorable character that's easily the best thing in an otherwise average movie.
The Journey to Elysium: This three-part making-of doc clocks in at nearly 45 minutes and goes in depth with pre-production and creating the futuristic world, the rigorous shooting, and all the elements of post, including editing and music.
Extended Scene (1:45): A very brief extension of the scene where Kruger is "waking up." Any more Copley in this movie is a welcome addition.
In Support of Story (10:35): A cool look at the visual effects, from the photorealistic robots to the flying cars.
Engineering Utopia (11:43): Syd Mead is a "futurist" artist who's worked on everything from BLADE RUNNER to TRON. This featurette acknowledges his contributions to ELYSIUM.
Collaboration (13:19): A look at the cast featuring interviews with Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, and Sharlto Copley.
The Technology of 2154 (10:13): More on the futuristic concepts in the film, including the robots, Damon's exoskeleton and more.
Visions of 2154: Flip through artwork, BTs videos and more showcasing the film's world.
Previews, a DVD and UltraViolet Digital Copy are also included.
Maybe I'm being harder on ELYSIUM because DISTRICT 9 was so great, but this feels like something of a misstep for Neill Blomkamp. Thanks to Sharlto Copley's Kruger and a couple memorable action scenes, I think it's worth watching as a rental… but this could've been so much more.
Extra Tidbit: Did anybody else notice a random white horse during the kidnapping sequence or was it just me?