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

Monday is the deadline to register for Pennsylvania…

If residents want to vote in the May primary, which includes a vote for a new City Council member, today is the deadline to register.

National

Miss America thinks school should reconsider discipline of…

A Pa. student was suspended for asking Miss America to prom.

Local

Aria Health Torresdale workers caught selling prescription drugs

Two Aria Health at Torresdale employees were fired amid accusations they sold prescription drugs out of the Northeast Philadelphia campus.

National

Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter died Sunday from prostate cancer…

Former U.S. professional boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who spent 19 years in prison for murder and then was released after it was determined he did not get a fair trial,…

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

The Word

Miley Cyrus cancels more dates, tweeting from hospital

Miley Cyrus is reportedly so sick that she's had to postpone more tour dates. We know this because she has been sitting in a hospital…

Music

Loop are, er, um, back in the loop

Experimental noise rock band Loop's three mid-1980s to early-1990s albums, “Heavens End,” “Fade Out” and “A Gilded Eternity,” were mercifully reissued.

NHL

Ray Emery steps up in Flyers’ Game 2…

Sure, he allowed two goals in the Rangers’ first four shots Sunday afternoon, but it’s about how you start, not how you finish.

NHL

Flyers come from behind, even series with Rangers

The Flyers overcame a two-goal deficit to get a much-needed win at Madison Square Garden Sunday.

MLB

Phillies get set for four against the Dodgers

The Phillies will face tough starting pitching out west against the Dodgers this week.

MLB

Phillies notebook: Cole Hamels returns this week

The Phillies should receive a big boost when Cole Hamels returns during the Dodgers series.

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.