Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’ is more or less another ‘District 9′

A part-robot Matt Damon wields a splattery futuristic gun in "Elysium." Credit: Kimberley French
A part-robot Matt Damon wields a splattery futuristic gun in “Elysium.”
Credit: Kimberley French

‘Elysium’
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Stars: Matt Damon, Sharlto Copley
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

If at first you succeed, try again. “Elysium,” filmmaker Neill Blomkamp’s swollen Hollywood cash-in for “District 9,” is more or less the same thing: a blunt political parable involving outer space that turns delightfully gory and involves a souped-up man-machine. Like “District 9” and its send-up of apartheid South Africa, “Elysium” — a look at chasmic class divide — isn’t deep thinking or a rock solid treatise. It’s maximalist politicizing, big and sloppy, distracting enough to take one’s mind off its polemical shortcomings.

The premise goes “Blade Runner” one further: Instead of a grim future where the rich live far above the surface, in “Elysium” everyone has gone outside our orbit, dwelling in the titular satellite that looks like a spinning Beverly Hills. Poor minorities remain on an arid Earth, although our hero is a caucasian Matt Damon with a vaguely Mexican name. After suffering radiation poisoning at his crap job, Damon’s Max DeCosta tries to sneak up to Elysium, where any and all wounds/diseases/lesions are swiftly healed.

In “District 9,” Bloomkamp ran into irksome territory by including among the baddies black South Africans. Here, he fixes that: DeCosta gets involved with shady Latinos, who when pressed turn out to be more selfless and heroic than him. “District 9”’s Sharlto Copley soon reappears, this time as the main antagonist. (Jodie Foster plays Elysium’s coldblooded Secretary of Defense, but does little but stare at screens and speak in an unplaceable — South African, maybe? — accent.) Copley is almost as manic as he was in the first film, only this time his unpredictable, unpolished shtick is used for an unsettling combination of anarchism and self-interest.

This, like “District 9,” is all building to a climax where whatever smarts and topical messages it meant to convey take a backseat to awe-inspiring destruction. This is a good thing. Blomkamp is a shallow, if sometimes daring, thinker, but exponentially superior at devising oddly beautiful ways to destroy human bodies. People don’t just die in a Neill Blomkamp film — they burst into bloody messes. DeCosta’s arc, learning to spare himself for the greater good, is stock, but the script knows how to milk its genre (if not political) ideas in inventive ways. (Never has the idea of bringing back a presumed-dead character been this inspired.) Like “District 9,” “Elysium” is thrilling when it turns off its brain and just blows stuff (or rather, people) up real good.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.