In the elitist universe of sci-fi thriller Elysium, William Blake’s prophecy has come to pass and then some. Not only has mankind built a heaven in hell’s despair, they’ve privatised it.
Director Neil Blompkamp’s newest project after District 9 sees Earth as a toxic dustbowl, choking underneath the ultimate gated community that hangs in the sky above. This is a place where eternal life machines come thrown in with the fitted kitchen, yet frustratingly, this is the only glimpse we get into the elitist colony of Stepford creeps.
Instead our perspective is limited to nuclear factory worker Max (Matt Damon) who, after being exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, does what any sensible person would do. He finds a man living in a garage that looks like a half-tumbled jenga tower and gets him to fuse a tonne of steel to his spine with a bone saw.
Trouble is, now strong as an automated ox, Max spends the rest of the film making loud explosions and having macho face-offs with a hulking powerhouse called “Kruger”. Within minutes, the film devolves from a startlingly brilliant apartheid parable to a popcorn drooling firefight that could be a scene from almost any Hollywood action flick.
Any questions you may have about this fascinating world are brushed aside in favour of blockbuster bust-ups. Elysium, with its giant wheel-shaped structure, could easily have reinvented itself. Instead it settles for Hollywood mediocrity, challenging audiences not with satire, but with the frustrating sense that, despite its unique premise, you’ve seen it all before.
First published in issue #093 of Official PlayStation Magazine UK