Elysium (2013)

Our review of Neill Blomkamp’s long-awaited follow-up to District 9. Will he provide us with another rollicking, sci-fi good time? Or is he already letting the Matrix tell him who he is? Remember after District 9, when he ran around declaring his next film would be another monument to low-budget ingenuity, shot in his home town, with no stars other than the ones it made of its actors? Yeah. This sucker cost $115 million, stars Jodie Foster, and Matt Damon, and Alice Braga, and was filmed in Vancouver…and Mexico City (no small task)…but still…he promises his next film will be a real monument to low-budget ingenuity, shot in his home town, with no stars other than the ones it made of its actors…

Sorry, everyone: looks like Neill took the blue pill.


4 thoughts on “Elysium (2013)”

  1. If you’ll allow me to rant a bit:
    Why does Blomkamp not want people to classify his films as Sci-Fi? The genre has been used more often than not to comment on the problems of the modern day since Star Trek TOS, and that’s at the very least! Does he just equate science fiction as only some sort of silly distraction?

    And my rant is over.

    Anyways, excellent review. I’m still probably going to have to watch Elysium at some point (Blomkamp built up enough good will with District 9 for me back in 2009 for me to immediately tell myself to see the man’s next movie), but now I’ll know what I’m in for. Let’s hope he can get his groove back with his third project, Chappie.

    1. You could take it that way…but, then again, he was talking to Wired at the time, and thus Wired‘s audience of religiously empirical techno-fetishists. And despite the porous borders on that Venn diagram, a good chunk of them most definitely do equate SF with silly bullshit for children & idiots. Doing so allows them more time to tongue-bathe Steve Jobs’ legacy and/or shill for their favorite technical solution to the world’s current problems. (This season: genetically engineered super-foods [that can be privately patented and owned in perpetuity]!)

  2. We who have visited the pre-Cenozoic (mentally or otherwise) salute you!

    Serendipitously enough, I have actually toured South Africa and it was a formative experience. The wealthy end of Cape Town surrounds the peninsular plateau like a Christmas tree skirt with housing getting poorer the further inland you go (with exceptions for the islands around the wineries) and it does tie in nicely with a Neuromancer-esqe city in the sky. Joberg is a mess best avoided, of course, and that end of the country’s wealthy live in Pretoria anyway. Out in the desert countryside and the Great Karoo I found the grey shaded reality of the world, white Afrikaners who might have been middle class there but would be poor in the US, ones who were poor, and a guy who lived like medieval gentry and bitched about (then) President W’s handling of the US dollar’s international exchange rate. Black Africans ranged from a hardscrabble middle class to enormous shantytown of housing built of plywood walls with sheet metal roofs held on with piled bald tires, and one guy so badassed he marched his whole family across several war zones to go to college. Whoa, I’m rambling.

    Anyway, I think that even if Blomkamp doesn’t want to be political, his movies are actually saying something, and I don’t see a lot of that going around. I’m impressed he got a non-Hollywood boilerplate message into a movie with $115 Mil worth of investor eyes on him. Also, I dare say that if the woman were the real protagonist in an exoskeleton there might be a real lawsuit from Gibson, I seem to remember that was a short story in “Burning Chrome.”

    Addendum: Am I our of date? I thought the newest gift of the techno-gods was the self driving car, or is that just what NPR wants.

    1. Last I heard, the self-driving car was what 2004’s I, Robot wanted…though I wouldn’t be surprised if NPR were infected with I, Robot The Movie fans. They’re far too susceptible to certain mental disorders.

      You’re not rambling – you’re adding valuable, first-hand, on-the-ground information. Some of us have never anywhere further south than Gibraltar, and our knowledge of geography is as spotty as anyone’s. The image of a rich stripe of land surrounded by a sea of poverty obviously had some effect on our writer/director – otherwise he wouldn’t keep returning to it. And I really would like to give him the benefit of the doubt. Yeah, it’s nice to see a sci-fi action movie try…but my gut reaction echos what a certain undead musician once said to a desperate knife-fighter: “Try harder. Try again!”

      Rambling would be someone – me, say – going on about the astonishing, superficial coincidences between the 2012 film Elysium and the 2007 sci-fi role-playing video game Mass Effect. For example: it’s funny how that game’s central hubworld and the movie’s main location are both starkly minimalist ring-world space stations, seemingly constructed of nothing but postage stamp-sized public parks and gently angled, bone white surfaces that look both plastic and metal at the same time. Funnier still, a major element of the game’s backstory, referenced often enough to make a drinking game out of it – as well it should, since it’s the event that pushed humanity into the center of the galactic stage, finally proving to the older space-faring races that we are a military force with which it’s best not to fuck – revolves around a twenty-year-old attack on a distant human colony called…Elysium.

      If one wanted to get really conspiratorial about it, one could note that Mass Effect debuted as an Xbox exclusive in November ’07, owing to a deal its publisher inked out with Microsoft. Microsoft, which was supposed to make a movie out of its other exclusive shooty/actiony/space adventure game, Halo, in 2009. A movie Neill Blomkamp was supposed to direct…before it fell through and he used the petty cash to make District 9. One wonders what game Neill was playing throughout 2008, while he waited for Peter Jackson to call and tell him if he still had a job, or if he was going to have to create his own.

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