I went to the cinema with my brother and sister to see this movie and it was fantastic! It was similar to District 9 in the director’s use of slums and profusion of waste, dust, advanced technology, violence, and South Africans. It’s such a novel experience to hear other languages than English in any blockbuster.
Some minor spoilers in the review.
Matt Damon as Max Da Costa was a fantastic casting choice. I don’t think a different actor could bring out the sympathetic in this character. He’s a subdued kind of hero, or even an anti-hero at the beginning. Despite his criminal past and a good deal of egoism, when faced with his imminent death at the start of the movie, he never comes over as a hardened man. We can understand him and his frustration, his wish to move up in the world and leave his past behind. He serves as a lesson of the hopeless position citizens of Earth are in. In many ways this is his story – how he matured, grew over and beyond the restrictions of his depressing environment. I was really proud of him at the end of the movie.
Yet, we can also argue that Spider (Wagner Moura) is one of the most heroic characters; it is he who had the idea of changing the fate of Earth, he who put plans into motion, provided funds, technology and people. It was his drive and vision that enabled the outcome. Max was a crucial part of the plan, the most vital one even, but he’d still be just another casualty of exploitation without Spider. Although, the way Spider run his gang was far from exemplary (as if having a gang is anything to be proud of), but he was not the typical gang leader focused on money. He had a vision, a desire to change things just a little and help people. His underground operation was quite sophisticated. At first I was wary of the guy, especially since Julio (Diego Luna), Max’s friend, was against soliciting his help, but the man won me over in the end.
Secretary Jennifer Delacourt (Jodie Foster) was a good casting choice although I agree with what few reviewers have already pointed out – she’s not utilised to her full potential. She’s an icy, calculating woman with no scruples left regarding the protection of her Elysium, so I really looked forward to a showdown between her and the rebels. I never got that but the twist with her hired guns was satisfactory enough to appease me somewhat. There was still so much potential left untapped in her character that I was kind of disappointed. She was written out of the script far too soon. I also wished to see more of the Elysium society. Is there a director’s cut anywhere? It feels like we were given the bare bones of the story and universe.
The character that almost completely stole the show was the main mercenary Kruger (Sharlto Copley). He was delightfully evil, a true sociopath in the service of the Secretary. He was so convincing it was truly frightening. When he got his hands on Max’s childhood friend Frey (Alice Braga) and her sick daughter, I thought that it could never end well for any of them. He was the true villain of the movie. Delacourt appeared like a puny amateur next to him, so he’s definitely to blame for taking the wind out of her sails. When he and Max dished out some truly epic fight scenes, you could never be sure who’d get the upper hand. It could go either way; I did not feel confident Max was safe in his position as a hero. I loved this unpredictable element in the movie. I almost felt that Frey was a distraction, the required damsel in distress, so I did not care for her at first. Thank the stars she did not turn out into a true romantic interest or the cliché would have killed the movie for me. It was friendship that remained the central emotion of the movie.
What I also liked was the sci-fi gadgets, the technology and the visuals. Neill Blomkamp doesn’t disappoint with amazing shots of the landscape, Earth and space travel. The robots were especially convincing. My brother and sister loved them and immediately thought of Mass Effect, even more so since Elysium space-station reminded them of the video game. (I’m taking their words since I’m completely ignorant of the game. I just know they are great fans.) They are looking forward to the movie, so they were overjoyed that moviemakers have figured out a way to make these special effects look really good. The Med-pods were cool, the sequences where they worked their miracles fantastic. I really liked the elegant designs of the space-shuttles, but I did not care that much about the exoskeletons.
Still this is one fantastic movie and I’m definitely going to see more of the director’s work in the future. I hope for a story that will rely less on action and more on characters.