Elysium (Neill Blomkamp, 2013)

What’s it about? In the year 2154, Elysium is a space-station in orbit around Earth, where the super-wealthy live comfortably in idyllic surroundings. Below, on an over-populated, polluted Earth, everyone else lives in poverty, including factory-worker Max (Matt Damon). Following a serious accident, he resolves to get to Elysium where Med-Pods cure all known illnesses, but entry to this protected haven is strictly controlled.

Is it any good? Up until the bit with the 'hippo story', this is a pretty enjoyable sci-fi actioner and builds upon the satirical elements Blomkamp brought to his impressive debut feature District 9. Whereas that film portrayed a racially segregated scenario, this depicts a economic class divide between the haves and the have-nots, drawing obvious parallels with contemporary issues that exist in our world today, such as anti-immigration laws and healthcare provision. It's a broadly sketched, but pleasingly intriguing set-up for a Hollywood blockbuster. Against this backdrop, the characters are also broadly sketched, but Damon hulks about agreeably as our hero, whilst Jodie Foster purses her thin lips in impressively villainous fashion as the security chief of Elysium intent on keeping undesirables out. Best of all, we have some outstanding CGI which is wonderfully integrated to astonishingly realistic effect - if you ever wondered what a spaceship landing in a shanty town would look like, look no further. However, about two-thirds of the way through comes the 'hippo story' and thereafter the film extradites all its interesting ideas and becomes a series of formulaic shouty-shooty-fighty sequences linked by lazy plot developments and contrivances as it moves to a frankly risible ending. A pity, as it diminishes a film which had real potential as a sci-fi blockbuster. What it really needed was to be put on the film equivalent of a Med-Pod to heal that unfortunate late dose of silly-itis.

Anything else I should know? There are some illogical elements and ridiculous moments in Elysium, but the space-station itself is not one of them, as the concept of a rotating, halo-shaped space station that generates its own gravity has been around for over 60 years. 'Ringworlds' of various sizes have been a staple of science fiction for years, most notably in Larry Niven’s Ringworld novels, the Orbitals of Iain M. Banks Culture Universe and the highly successful Halo gaming franchise (which Blomkamp was supposed to film before it got shelved). Here’s the low down on how they would work from a former NASA director, another piece from Forrest Bishop who proposed the open-air Bishop Ring space habitat and a little bit on the related Dyson Sphere concept. Yes, I realize this is all quite geeky. 

Ringworlds. Cool.

What does the Fonz think? District 90210

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