There is an air of been there, seen that, got the T-shirt that lingers through Elysium, Neill Blomkamp’s highly-acclaimed sophomore project. Yet, it still manages to cover the damages with amazing visuals, exciting action and deliver one of 2013’s best sci-fi films.
Working with an estimated budget of $115 million, the film could easily be one of those projects where they’ve spent 10 million on production and the rest going to VFX. The same could be said about the film’s story, where Blomkamp has clearly spent the majority of his focus on developing worlds and action as opposed to developing the film’s paper-thin characters. Make no mistake about it, Elysium is pure eye candy, and the Blu-ray release establishes that even more so. It gloats in its CGI mastery.
(taken from Hein Schlebusch’s review)
Elysium is the second film from visionary director Neill Blomkamp. After District 9’s success, both critically and financially, it is to be Blomkamp’s trial by fire. Not as daring as District 9, yet much more dazzling to look at, Elysium solidifies Blomkamp’s talent as a director who is willing to take risks and be different.
It’s the year 2154. Earth and its resources have mostly been depleted and most people live in a dystopian sort of future. The rich though have decided to take their money and flee… to a “perfect” world created just within earth’s orbit, called Elysium. People from earth desperately try to gain access to Elysium and its medical technology, while the citizens of Elysium stop at nothing to keep illegals out.
We follow Max (Damon), an ex-con who has left his old ways behind and tries to make a living while working in a factory. An accident exposes Max to a lethal dose of radiation. He learns he has only 5 days to live, and this sets him off on his desperate struggle to get to Elysium to heal himself with their technology. The Secretary of defence, Delacourt (Foster) learns of Max’s plans and initializes her own plans to stop him at all costs. These plans include eliciting the help of a brutal mercenary Kruger (Copley) and his thugs to thwart Max’s plans.
Blomkamp has a unique vision of the future in his movies and his style is very evident in Elysium. There simply isn’t anything else that looks like this film. The stark differences between earth and Elysium are viscerally and emotionally shown, and you can quickly understand why people are struggling to get to Elysium. He isn’t scared to tackle some of the harder topics and you can easily see underlying similarities to current South America and USA with the immigration issues and the US seemingly the holy land to South Americans. The fact that Max and the people around him all talk Spanish and Portuguese, look like Latin American people and live in settlements that look like future favelas, reinforces those views.
Acting is a bit of a hit and miss thing, with Jodie Foster and William Fichtner delivering atrocious performances. Matt Damon carries the film with a stern yet honest performance and Sharlto Copley is good as the bad guy. At times Copley tries too hard to mimic his District 9, Wikus Van Der Merwe character, but he is indeed a good actor. Blomkamp is a very good director and a true visionary, as is cemented by Elysium. He is easily the most talented South African director working today.
I’m really looking forward to see what the future holds for him and his unique take on films. Blomkamp’s writing skills though have their limitations. While Elysium stands on an interesting premise, it struggles to get all the ingredients together and this is where Elysium struggles to be the movie it’s intended to be.
Although not perfect, Elysium is definitely worth a look. The effects are different and spectacular, the world created unique and watching Damon and Copley going at each other a treat.
Elysium was shot on Redcode RAW (3.3K) with 35mm prints on Fuji Eterna-CP 3514DI and has transferred into one of the best-looking titles currently available on the format. Simply put; it’s flawless. The 1080p/AVC-encoded high definition video presentation that has an average bitrate of 25mbps is detailed, crisp and solid. Earth’s muted grey, blue and blacks are in sharp contrast to Elysium’s richer colours. This works incredibly well to differentiate the two very different worlds. Blacks are dynamic and shadows still reveal a good number of detail. It’s hard to find any real flaws in the razor sharp image here. It’s exceptional!
Elysium boasts equally good audio quality. It explodes onto Blu-ray with 7.1 DTS-HD MA lossless soundtrack. Listen through it over and over and it’s hard to find any negative aspect to the audio. It’s simply flawless. Sounds are in the right spaces at the right time and bring the world’s alive. The surround channels and all respective frequencies are used completely, giving your system a decent workout. Effects (which includes loud crashes of ships, gunfire and explosions) are all myriad and dominate throughout. Yet, dialogue is always audible, despite the loud bangs.
As I mentioned earlier Elysium gloats in its CGI mastery and the Blu-ray extras prove it. Here you’ll find a good number of the technical aspects of the film; conceptual art, 3D models and behind-the-scenes videos that show off what it takes to make a blockbuster of this caliber.
Visions of 2154
Extended Scene: Kruger Wakes Up
The Journey to Elysium – A three-part documentary
Collaboration: Crafting the Performances in Elysium – a documentary about the casting
The Technology of 2154
In Support of Story: The Visual Effects of Elysium
Engineering Utopia: A Society in the Sky
It’s fair enough to make a film that’s all about the visuals and the explosions, but I can’t help but feel that Elysium is an opportunity missed. In between the overly political tones of the story lies something that was never fully realized in the production. It’s a pity. Nevertheless, if you want to see things go boom and bang, you could do a lot worse than pick up Elysium on Blu-ray. The disk itself is perfect for demoing your HD television or surround sound system. It’s really that good.