Elysium received a lot of hype prior to its release due to the fact that it is Neill Blomkamp's sophomore project, following up his 2009 release of the awesome science-fiction film District 9. While this newest movie has a similar feel to District 9, it falls short of all the buzz it got before it hit the big screen.
This Matt Damon film is set in Los Angeles in the year 2154. The wealthy have preserved their extravagant lifestyle by leaving Earth to live on a space station known as Elysium. The less fortunate are forced to stay behind and work on the forsaken planet, under strict rules and horrible living conditions. Max (Damon) is an ex-con who suffers a tragic accident at work and whose only hope is to sneak onto Elysium and search for a way to survive.
While the plot is intriguing, the script is rather dull. One of the villains, Secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster), is more annoying than scary. However, the only force Max really faces is her henchman Kruger, played wonderfully by South African actor Sharlto Copley. Copely made his feature film debut in District 9 and unfortunately has not done much since. Although he is the antagonist of this story, you root for him to succeed just because he is so entertaining to watch. Perhaps if the plot had focused on Kruger, it would have been a better movie.
It is not that the film is bad, it just never grasps its full potential. The action sequences are extremely well-done and the graphics are so realistic, but in the end the story itself does not have much of a pay off. It also has pieces of background that are never really explained. For example, several dialogue sequences are flashbacks to Max's childhood where he interacts with nuns in Spanish. Is he in LA or somewhere else entirely? He could be in another country, but then why does he end up in California? That is nit-picky, but there are larger lingering questions. While Max don's a metal suit for most of the film, Copley's character has pieces of metal in his skin. No other person, from Elysium or from Earth, is built like this so what happened to make Kruger like this. There is also a forced romantic story line between Max and a young mother, whose daughter tells Max a story about a meerkat and a hippo that he eventually announces he figured out the moral to. Unfortunately, that is all he says. He knows why the hippo did it. Clearly, he is eluding that in the bigger story he is the hippo. But that really makes no sense when you think about the little girl's story and it is never explained.
Elysium is worth it to watch the battle between good and evil, but it is just a mediocre film by a director who is capable of so much more. There are all these pieces that never quite come together and an ending that leaves you annoyed that you spent two hours of your life waiting for this epic payoff. It is nice to see Copley back on the big screen, but perhaps he should move on to better projects.