Review: Elysium (2013)

elysium poster

“I’m not interested in your little ideas. I’m interested in something much larger. This habitat is dying. There is a political sickness inside of it. A tumor that needs to be removed.”
– Secretary of Defense Delacourt

In a futuristic dystopian future, the world has been divided again. It is 2154 and the rich and affluent people of Earth have moved to Elysium, a lavish space habitat, beautiful, technologically advanced and safe, not overpopulated and desolate like Earth. On Earth, cruel robots control everything, people answering to them. Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) is one of the unfortunate ones trapped on Earth, but convinced he will have the money and means one day to buy a ticket to Elysium, to live life freely. Max has a criminal record, and it counts against him. He is a parolee and works for the assembly line Armadyne Corp. Max is not high up on the food chain and works himself to the bone. An unfortunate incident with the police bots gets Max some more time tacked to his parole, but his unfortunate meeting with them re-acquaints him with Frey (Alice Braga), a childhood friend.

elysium ill
“I could write a reboot sequence and shut down the entire system. And at that point… you could encode a new president, yes.” – John Carlyle

Returning to work after the incident with the police bots, an accident occurs which has Max lethally poisoned by radiation, leaving him with a remaining five days to live. Amradyne CEO John Carlyle (William Fichtner) is callous and uncaring towards Max’s situation, just wanting him out of the building. Max returns home, where his friend Julio (Diego Luna) cares for him. Max needs one of the Elysium Med-Bays to help him, and appeals to smuggler Spider (Wagner Moura) for a ticket up there, not caring that three other ships that attempted to reach Elysium were shot down. Eventually Spider relents when he brokers a deal – Max will get his citizenship and ticket up there if he hijacks financial information from en Elysium higher up, and Max decides to use Carlyle. Max then goes into surgery in which Spider’s men hook him up to a powered exoskeleton to sustain him and help him with the job. Meanwhile, on Elysium, Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) is in a lot of trouble with Elysian President Patel (Faran Tahir) for having dispatched formidable sleeper agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to eradicate the three approaching ships. Kruger is cut loose, and Delacourt turns to Carlyle to make a deal to overthrow the current Elysium computer core and grant herself presidency, while Carlyle will get all future defense contracts for the next two hundred years.

elysium getting someone ready
“They will hunt you to the edge of the Earth for this.” – Spider

Max is not happy about his deal with Spider, but is desperate to get up to Elysium and heal himself – he wants to survive. When Max and his guys attack Carlyle, Delacourt gets Kruger back into action, who is sent out to put a stop to all the madness. Max is wounded in the getaway, what with the information from Carlyle he downloaded but cannot access. He goes to Frey, whom he learns has a daughter named Matilda (Emma Tremblay), who is dying of leukemia. Frey wants Max to take Matilda with him and heal her, though he refuses, citing that it is too dangerous out there. Max goes to Spider to free himself form Earth and become and Elisium citizen, and they learns that the program that they have intercepted from Carlyle can be used to make everyone a citizen of Elysium. Delacourt has put Earth under lockdown, and no ships can leave. Frustrated, Max realises that he will have to sort something out with Kruger. Meeting with Kruger to make the trade (his health for the important information in his head), he is shocked to find out that Kruger has taken Frey and Matilda hostage.

elysium kruger frey
“The only thing I can do to help you is leave, I promise you.” – Max Da Costa

Will Max be able to find a way to keep Matilda and Frey safe? Will he be given his citizenship when he turns over the information? Will Kruger allow Max to live? What will happen to everyone on Earth? Will Matilda be saved? Will Kruger realise the importance of the information in Max’s head and use it to his own dreaded ends?

elysium kruger
“It’s just a flesh wound!” – Agent Kruger

A 4/10 for Elysium, and that is being far too kind. Wtf world?! Two incredibly good friends of mine were very insistent that I not shoot the film down and check it out, so I got pretty amped to see what it was all about at the rate they were going. I mean how the hell does Jan Pierewiet get worked into a movie? A South African actor garnering the praise from so many people globally as one of the best movie villains in ages? I just had to experience this for myself. And I did. And oh boy, what a freaking disasterpiece! The camera work was just dreadful, all over the show and not sure of the story it was supposed to tell. The soundtrack is another something I was not sold on. Then let me get to Agent Kruger. Dammit I was excited, sure that he would bring to the movie what was missing. I was so sadly mistaken. For one, his pronunciation/accent was overkill and made us all sound like retards in South Africa (I will blame this on overacting, I swear people, we don’t sound like that), and he was not scary in the least. This was something that really bothered me. I heard so many account of how fresh and new he was and how frightening. He was laughable at worst and used incorrectly. The dialogue was freaking dreadful in here, and had my other half and myself in stitches half the time for how badly it came together. Wow! I was prepared to shoot someone if I heard the words “boytjie” uttered one more time or “we’ve got a runner”. Wtf why?! Again, confusion reigned supreme for the majority of this. I reckon it is now safe to assume that I am not a Neill Blomkamp fan, as I was one of the few people in the world that couldn’t abide District 9, either, and this was a massive step back from that (although maybe I should attempt District 9 again sometime). I am so sad to see Matt Damon’s name attached to this project! Overall, definitely something I would not recommend to anyone.

56 thoughts on “Review: Elysium (2013)

      1. 😦 No, and it doesn’t help that that jackass Malema makes things worse, plus the president and his multi-million Rand fire pool… damn.


  1. But…but, but it’s Sharlto Copley…I mean, District 9 and Neil Blomkamp…I’m so sad lol. I didn’t hate this movie, it’s fun for what it is. I loved Copley’s ruthlessness and pure evil attitude. I’m not good with accents so I don’t know if it’s terrible or not, but I’m pretty sure Copley and Blomkamp are South African, aren’t they?


    1. But… but… Joseph I can’t! 😛

      There was nothing scary or convincing about Kruger for me, I really expected something more psychopathic and mad and a little more… cracked. He just… no.

      Yeah, Copley and Blomkamp are BOTH South African, Copley over-exaggerated his accent, which was totally unnecessary. Not only that, his lines were freaking cringeworthy! I am happy that we have a South African director out there doing these big and amazing things, but for some reason they both fell flat with me. I laughed my toes off throughout half this film, it was that ludicrous.


  2. Aw shucks. Not quite the Sporadic review I waas hoping to see with this title, but I see what you mean. There were so many moments of cheese in here, beginning with (yes and overacted) Kruger, and ending with the Worst Offenders of the Bunch — Jodie Foster’s character. I couldn’t believe how badly the “baddies” were written here, and Blomkamp really decided to shoot the film’s themes in black and white. It wasn’t subtle, and it wasn’t particularly well-acted.

    That all said, I enjoyed it quite a lot. The visuals were great {esp Elysium itself} and some action sequences were fun, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of the conclusion. It followed a very standard action/drama plot line that was also a letdown. Even though I liked it, I totally see where you’re at on it. It didn’t do too terribly well for many others


    1. Ah Tom I really tried… the reviews were very mixed, but I was hoping for something more than I got. I can agree with all those points you listed out there! They were NOT scary, they were NOT intimidating, they had NO hold over anyone (with the exception of Carlyle’s “don’t breathe on me”, I was not impressed with anything). The acting really, really got to me.

      Yeah, I will give for that, Elysium was beautiful. That conclusion… what the hell was that even all about?! It offered NO closure whatsoever… I was really not a fan, forgive me.

      Teehee, I am glad our friendship will not be desecrated over something like Elysium. 😀


  3. I am one of the few people who actually quite liked this film. I agree about the Agent Kruger character though. But I thought it was real pretty and the social commentary, whilst obvious, was kinda interesting.

    As an Aussie, I totally feel your pain on the real over-exaggeration of an accent to emphasise a character’s nationality. That is a constant for us.


    1. I am glad that you enjoyed it! It could have been interesting, but instead fell flat for me.

      I am sure that you do understand it! Sometimes Aussie accents are so overdone that I want to scream because they grate on me, when all the other Aussies I have met during work, etc. have sounded so NORMAL by comparison!


    1. Thanks Chris! I think I should try District 9 again and see if anything changed, but this was really just not worth it at all. Would like to hear what you think when you get to it someday!


      1. This is what I keep hearing. I think everyone really wanted this to be another District 9 but it’s let down so many people. Let’s hope Blomkamp isn’t a one hit wonder.


      2. I didn’t really like District 9 very much, so I was hoping this was the one. Plus I like Matt Damon, so thought it would be cool to see what they brought together. This just didn’t work, everything was just all over the show, massively disorganised, bad acting, weak story… depressing, overall. I hope he isn’t a one hit wonder, I mean he is able to do things, but whether he can sustain is another question altogether.


  4. Agreed. This flick is not good. Copley is so over top as to be uninteresting and Foster is so bland as to be boring. Between them they comprise a terrible tandem of villains. The visuals are impressive, but that is basically all Elysium has going for it.


  5. There were bits of this film I liked and I enjoyed the overall story but I couldn’t bear Kruger. This is from my review: You also have to wonder why a South African director chose to depict his South African mercenary characters like crap action 80’s movie South African baddies. It just felt like Kruger and his compatriots lacked any kind of character development.


    1. Thanks Abbi! Damn straight, I mean what the hell was that even all about?! It was awful. Overall, I really didn’t enjoy this, though in terms of the laughs that I got out of it for how ludicrous it was, I suppose that counts for something, right?


  6. Sadly, I agree with your take. I’m not a big fan of District 9; I think Blomkamp squandered some good ideas with a really dumb last act. Elysium took those issues and made them a lot worse throughout the movie. Interesting concept in theory, but just an epic fail.


  7. I’m w/ you on this one Zoe, which is disappointing as I love District 9. It’s over-simplistic and borderline silly. Now that I think about it I might’ve been too generous in my rating when I reviewed it. A filmmaker I met at a local film fest gave me a very good essay about how Elysium is a faux sci-fi as it’s really just a bombastic action flick w/ futuristic space elements in it. Nope, not even Matt Damon can save this flick.


    1. Thanks Ruth! Hmmmmm, sounds like a very good essay, sounds pretty precise on what the issues were. I love Matt Damon, but this just didn’t do anything for me. Hmmmm, maybe you tried to find redeeming qualities because of District 9? 😛


  8. Hmm. Zoe I can’t really tell–did you like this one or not? Lol. 😉 I liked this one significantly more than you did, but I still didn’t love it. It was surprisingly generic and often over-the-top. I actually did like Kruger, but I totally see why you didn’t. Good job, lady! 🙂


    1. Hmmmm, I am not quite sure myself Cara! 😛 Thanks a lot. I don’t know, Kruger just worked on my last nerve, and I laughed at his “evil” status more than anything else. It was incredibly generic, boring and just didn’t work very well at all.


      1. Here’s this movie summed up:
        Jodie Foster: “People from the Earth slums keep trying to get up here, what do they want?”
        Someone else: “They want the miracle medical pods. We have tons of them, should we send some down to Earth so they stop trying to get up here?”
        Jodie Foster: “Nah.”


  9. Wooooh….ok. You didn’t like it. lol.

    Have to strongly disagree with your review, but that’s your opinion.

    I thought it was excellent, with a brilliant villain, great action, a fantastic setting and great performances. Certainly a lot more interesting than 90% of the Hollywood, Michael Bay crap we get most of the time.


    1. Yeah I really didn’t like it, but I love how we all have different opinions, and glad to hear that you enjoyed it!

      Not a Michael Bay fan, either, so we’re all in agreement on that! 😛


  10. Nice review and interesting to get a South African take on it. I’m pretty much in agreement with you and didn’t enjoy Copley at all. I also didn’t like the way it just gave up on its central ideas and just became a fairly boring action film for the last hour or so. Pretty dull, but bits of it looked good.


    1. Thanks Stu! Thank you very much. He just worked on my nerves, but made me laugh a lot because he was just preposterous in every single way!

      Yeah, it started with something and then rapidly dwindled out and that sucked quite a bunch.

      There were moments where it looked great, but that just couldn’t save this for me.


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