Elysium Not Exactly the 'Promised Land'

Many critics agree: Matt Damon is great, but 'District 9' was better

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 9, 2013 8:17 AM CDT

(Newser) – Much like in real life, Matt Damon's character in the sci-fi thriller Elysium isn't too fond of government bureaucrats. Set in royally screwed-up Los Angeles (home to the masses) and an idyllic space station in the clouds (home to the rich) circa 2154, this flick from Neill Blomkamp (District 9) has both the compelling themes and action-packed fight scenes to make it a summer blockbuster. So is it one? Critics are split.

  • The action sequences, complete with "futuristic CGI flying machines" are impressive, but it's "Blomkamp's critique of a society riven by class and racial differences" that sets it apart, Soren Anderson writes for the Seattle Times. "Few mainstream moviemakers have painted as sprawling and densely detailed a portrait of humanity in extremis as Blomkamp does here."

  • But at the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan's high hopes were dashed. "Elysium is no promised land." Though Matt Damon is great as always and the visuals are equally as impressive, "the film doesn't feel as singular as we would have hoped." District 9 did a much better job of connecting genre (sci-fi) and theme ("socio-political concerns").
  • Even with the talented Damon along for the ride, Dana Stephens at Slate writes Elysium "does a little, sometimes shockingly little, with a lot ... Blomkamp proceeds to spend the last two-thirds of his film crashing spaceships into lawns, or staging high-tech fistfights. It’s a waste of a perfectly good dystopia."
  • But over at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Steven Rea sees things differently. "Among the slew of recent futuristic hell-in-a-hand-basket spectacles, Elysium takes the cake." Sure, it can be a little generic at times—"haven't we just seen all this head-bashing, hanging-from-catwalks, mixed-martial-arts mayhem in The Wolverine and Iron Man 3?—but "as summer movie sci-fi extravaganzas go, Elysium is easily the best thing out there right now."

This film publicity image released by TriStar, Columbia Pictures-Sony shows Matt Damon in a scene from "Elysium."   (AP Photo/TriStar, Columbia Pictures - Sony, Kimberley French)
This publicity photo released by Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, shows Matt Damon starring in Columbia Pictures' "Elysium."   (AP Photo/Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Stephanie Blomkamp)
This film publicity image released by TriStar, Columbia Pictures-Sony shows Matt Damon, left, and Sharlto Copley in a scene from "Elysium."   (AP Photo/TriStar, Columbia Pictures - Sony, Stephanie Blomkamp)
Matt Damon stars in Neil Blomkamp's latest Elysium.   (YouTube)
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Matt Damon stars in Elysium.   (YouTube)

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