Director Neil Blomkamp gives us another politically-minded science fiction romp with Elysium. We meet Max, an ex-con living in the blighted Los Angeles of 2154. The Earth is an environmental and economic wreck, the super-wealthy departed long ago to live on Elysium, an orbital habitat where everything is sunshine and dinner parties. Max gets a lethal dose of radiation at the factory where he works and his only hope of survival is to somehow get to Elysium and use one of the magical med-pods that furnish every rich person’s living room. And so Max decides to take that One Last Job that might earn him a ticket to space.
Blomkamp also directed District 9, another science fiction film that had a political subtext. District 9 managed to convey its message with a light touch and even some humor, but Elysium is a bit more heavy-handed. It still works quite well as an action movie, particularly in the first two-thirds. It’s when Blomkamp tries to drive home his message about how everyone deserves to be treated decently by society that the eye-rolling begins. Still, Matt Damon delivers a compelling performance and it’s fun to watch Sharlto Copley, who played a nebbish bureaucrat in District 9, swagger across the screen here as a psychopathic mercenary.
Somebody also needs to explain to me how a space station can maintain an atmosphere without any visible enclosure. Because that really bugged me.