It's widely accepted that 2009 was a "down year" for movies. However, one remarkably surprising diamond in the rough came from a then first-time director, Neill Blomkamp. Blomkamp's debut feature, District 9, fused together riveting sci-fi and action with dramatic elements concerning social warfare. Blomkamp dazzled audiences and delivered one of the year's biggest highlights. In 2013, the director returns with his followup blockbuster, Elysium. Being of a similar mold as its predecessor, Elysium marks a dissatisfying regression for the young filmmaker.
In 2154 Earth has become so overpopulated that the rich and privileged have abandoned their former planet and moved to a high-class and luxurious man-made space station called Elysium. Free of crime and disease, Elysium is merely a dream for the downtrodden and lowly citizens of Earth such as Max Da Costa (played by Matt Damon). But when a terrible accident leaves Da Costa with only five days to live, he'll stop at nothing to venture to the forbidden space station and rid his body of the deadly effects.
Four years in the making, it's shameful to find that Neill Blomkamp's Elysium is merely a hollow shell that attempts to recapture the poetic beauty of the director's first feature, but misses entirely. Everything about Blomkamp's sophomore effort holds tightly to District 9. The look, the feel and even the great social divide. In fact, committed performances from A-List stars such as Matt Damon and Jodie Foster still fail to keep Elysium afloat. Where District 9 felt realistic and believable, the director's new release feels overblown and tacky. In addition to its mildly compelling story, Elysium suffers from a complete action overdose. Trading crafty dialogue and genuine drama for gunfire and more gunfire, this summer blockbuster culminates as nothing more than a cheap imitation of Blomkamp's earlier work.
If there's any noteworthy silver lining in Elysium, it comes in the form of Sharlto Copley's unforgettable villainous role. Copley, who starred as the meek main man Wikus in District 9, gives a transcending 180-degree turn as one of the film's prominent antagonists, Kruger. The truly talented actor demonstrates his immense versatility and ultimately steals the show. But outside of Copley, Elysium is otherwise filled with mediocrity and countless disappointing aspects. Everything from a thoughtless and far-fetched story (only ONE person has access to the computer coding that controls ALL of the law enforcement robots ... seriously?) to an unoriginal mood and tone. Instead of breaking out from the norm like he did with his debut effort, Blomkamp lazily attempts to draw from his own work and the lack of creativity proves vital.
For as groundbreaking as District 9 managed to be, I was completely let down by the director's latest feature. Infused with an abundance of action and mind-numbing special effects, Elysium offers nothing more than a bland and mediocre movie experience. While those elements can sometimes make for a crowd-pleaser that many will enjoy, I'd rather get lost in a thought-provoking story with a unique vibe. Unfortunately, Elysium delivers none of the above.