Neil Blomkamp’s debut, District 9 (US-New Zealand, 2009), was critically lauded but I felt it was borderline racist (if I’m being charitable) and it lost the plot – see here. Like his first film, Elysium is SF and has a terrific premise: in the future the polluted Earth becomes a third world country whilst the rich, live off Earth on a satellite. As in District 9 this promise is destroyed by a dreadful script that manages to mangle a lot of talent (including Alice Braga, Jodie Foster and Diego Luna) into a macho, shoot ’em up mess. This is also despite a brilliant use of the world’s biggest dump (in Mexico) as a setting and a wonderful set up where the protagonist (a serviceable Matt Damon) works in a factory building robocops, which help keep the underclass in their place.
Maybe Blomkamp needs to hire a seasoned scriptwriter or have confidence in the strength of his ideas. There’s nothing wrong with blood ‘n’ bullets but it has to be in proportion if you want to make a serious point, which he obviously does. By the end I was screaming for the end; it won’t surprise you that good triumphs but the swelling soundtrack, as hospital ships lands on Earth to cure the underclass of their diseases, entirely negates the film’s premise in a swamp of syrup. With scarce resources only a few can ever be extremely rich and this will always be off the backs of the poor.
This is situation we are approaching explicitly in the UK where an economic recovery is lauded while many are sinking into poverty. The opening ten minutes of the film does show the shape of things to come if capitalism continues to rule.