Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Most people’s attentions turned to Neill Blomkamp back in 2009 when he released his debut directorial, Peter Jackson produced, break- out hit ‘District 9‘ the story of an Alien race living in a slum in Johannesburg and the government employee who get’s caught up in the conflict between mankind and the Alien visitors. Blomkamp was actually down at first, with Jackson, to bring the ever popular Halo game series to the big screen. He actually filmed a few minutes of footage for the film’s opening that can be found on Youtube. When that project collapsed however Blomkamp used the funds to create his own original sci-fi story ‘District 9’. Praised for its use of a rather realistic and less showy type of special effect and for bringing us a story about Alien’s that didn’t involve New York being totalled… it was altogether a very human story…. ironically.
So the announcement of Elysium last year, another Blomkamp directed sci-fi epic starring this time box office mega star Matt Damon certainly sparked the interest of movie goers all over the world. The story is again rather simple, a societal divide is again in place. However, this time the story revolves around Earth, grossly over populated and polluted in the near future and Elysium, a space habitat built by the wealthy of the human race in the atmosphere as an escape from the harsh realities below and a ticket to immortal life. Matt Damon plays Max an inhabitant of Earth who after an accident in a radioactive factory which leaves him terminally ill decides to venture to Elysium to seek medical aid. The only problem with this is that Elysium is strictly out of bounds to anyone on Earth and the habitat’s defence secretary Delacourt (Foster), who has designs for Elysium of her own, enlists the ruthless Kruger (Copley) to stop Max from reaching Elysium.
Safe to say this is a very decent follow up from a very exciting director. Blomkamp’s handle of CGI landscapes is ever present once more, although more possibly a little more polished than before. This doesn’t detract from that classic Blomkamp look either it still feels original and a stark contrast from anything you will see at the cinema this year.
The acting performances are all top notch as well. Damon in the lead role is honestly the weakest of the three leads here but that isn’t to say he doesn’t put in a good shift… he’s just Matt Damon. Jodie Foster shows again how she isn’t just Clarice from ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and plays Delacourt with a hint of venom and malice, perfectly comfortable in sanctioning the death of anyone who gets in her way. Sharlto Copley as Kruger, an Earth bound agent of Elysium, absolutely steals the show. He is all levels of evil that I can’t begin to describe in words how utterly sinister he is. And at first he may just seem a bit player in the plot but rest assured he steps up his involvement in the last third of the film and becomes a major player. Copley has really has gone up in my estimations after this film and I can’t wait to see him in more films to come.
Elysium however isn’t quite perfect. There’s no real reason why Max gets strapped into a robot suit which only really provides two short sequences of interesting action. There are issues with pacing as well, Blomkamp seemed to take a literal “no bull shit” approach to dialogue in this movie. No one says something that stops the film dead, it’s nice he tried to avoid this, but conversations between any of the characters don’t tend to last more than 20- seconds it is a very matter of fact method of story-telling. And then there is the story itself, Blomkamp has said that he isn’t trying to make a comment on modern society in his work but you can’t help but notice the warnings he provides society with in his films. Where ‘District 9’ ends in an altogether surprising way with the protagonists life all but ruined and doom signaled for the Earth’s future Elysium can be accused of being a bit more showy and “Hollywood” with it’s approach.
To summarise I really did enjoy the film. Mainly because I’m already a big Blomkamp enthusiast. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched ‘District 9’ so maybe I was going in with my mind made up. But no, not really I did find little inaccuracies throughout it that annoyed me which I won’t list here for the sake of tedium. I thought Kruger was an excellent villain and the look and feel of the movie was the same as ‘District 9’ even if the story overall wasn’t quite as good. Sadly for now it seems Blomkamp is moving away from science- fiction and into other realms of cinema which will be interesting to see nevertheless but the genre will certainly miss his input. I’m sure like most directors though he’ll revert to type sometime in the distant future.