Sociopolitical issues ignite a blitzkrieg of parables in Elysium, created by dynamically composed capitalism fears in the technology driven year of 2156. Matt Damon hoists up guns to shoot flying Roombas for his “have nots,” in what might be the most American film ever made by a foreign immigrant.
Science fiction explicitly divulges our problems under the guise of visual effects and spacey splendor. Our best hide symbolism with a symposium of voices; Elysium has one. Max (Damon) plunders his future with a crime-riddled past, working under snooty CEOs and sniveling politicians who sip wine on pure white balconies in an above-Earh curved paradise, Elysium.
Earth-based living has been damned to poverty, rushing to institute current real world Republican policy extremes. Broadening health care is gifted unto privileged uber rich, worker unions have been revoked, safety has been eliminated for rapid production, and human decency slashed to make way for furthering profitability. Stricken with dire radiation poisoning, Max rebels against a soul crushing system, joining rebels in a desperate bid for life saving medical necessity.
Elysium is determined to make political leanings central to everything it does, statements consistently inescapable in their visual broadness. Instead of utilizing minor elements to cherry pick reasons for outlandishly explosive action, Elysium becomes burdened by its messaging style.
Crimping and suffocating with every motion it makes, Elisyum’s world is one of duplicitous dialogue, Jodie Foster eye rolling as a mash-up of corrupted, inhuman, and soulless beings who exist to lash out at sick or poor. Foster is broadly cast as a repulsive human rights violator, drawn to be killed on the whim of audience delight.
Elysium is battling civil war, certainly representative of our own immobilizing personal beliefs which stifle progress, bringing an excess of tumultuous, ultimately empty campaign ads. That is what Elysium tries to be: A gaudy, futuristic advertisement meant to invoke inexplicable fear. So unyielding and one-sided, Matt Damon’s triumphant march to artificial worlds may as well harness MSNBC’s news ticker. This is to liberal leanings what Atlas Shrugged became to conservatives.
Neil Blomkamp directs in a comfort zone, Mexican poverty mirroring South African shanty town cinematography in 2009’s District 9. Blomkamp also envelopes frustrations in a failed Hollywood adaption of video game Halo with direct visual references via annular Elyisum. Visual effects tightly mirror District 9’s oppressed aliens, replaced with sharp-edged robots who rule on programmed social profiling (because an additional social concern is what this film required).
Some of Elysium’s spirited conflict carries merit and both far sides of America’s political spectrum carry relevancy within issues, yet Blomkamp is too overwrought to display nuanced fairness. Indicative of congressional smiting, Elysium even compartmentalizes childhood suffering to embellish significance. The film is competent and capably constructed, while force feeding audiences seeking two hour escapism from mundane strife between talking heads. Bureaucratic deconstruction is only welcomed when clearer heads prevail.
Elysium’s digitally crafted landscapes are a marvel. Outside of lightly delivered aliasing, these shots of economically prosperous cities – and even their opposites – are at the premium edge of 1080p. Resolution is maxed to produce refined and crisp images doused in extensive details with an abundance of clarity. Fine architectural lines and curved, space faring cities thin out into the background without visual loss.
In close, this visual story is much the same. Facial definition hits a monumental peak of unimpeded definition. Noise is never a presence allowing fidelity to patch in. Universal’s AVC encode should be rewarded for its ability to stand back and take a hands off posture, never appearing directly inside these images. Of some concern is source manipulation, particularly on Jodie Foster’s face. Clear signs of filtering wipes fine detail into a mash-up of unnatural smoothness. Hers is the only character afflicted, likely to establish an artificial “purity” regarding her character.
Much of Elysium is hit with light, especially a blistering contrast in certain segments. Exaggerations are not enough to bleach detail or color as they reach extreme levels. Moments in darker quarters (and there are only a few) demonstrate quality adherence to black levels. A dingy, Earth-bound surgical room is one of the few challenges, passing any questions regarding healthy doses of depth.
Oddly, color timing exhibits variances between planetary and space worlds, although not to such a varying degree as to stick out abnormally. Matt Damon lives in squalor hit with a tinge of polluted yellow, with Elysium exhibiting clearer air and pure whites. Flesh tones are unremarkable either way, and primaries slipping through on the planetary surface are equal to those in artificial atmosphere.
Sound design creates a dichotomy of unnaturally controlled nature on Elysium and crowded conditions on a rundown Earth. The volume difference between the two is substantially conveyed. Ambiance is central to the film’s audio side. Bullets become equalizers, splitting four surround channels with extensive use. Center surrounds are considered often, and more than clones from the other rears. Vehicles track well front to back, with attention paid to stereos.
Where the disc is remarkably lacking is LFE, to a point of forgetfulness. Too often, extension into the low-end is distractingly missing. Explosions from grenades go missing and engines from flying ships, with one exception at 56:10, are non-existent. There is nothing here to work from, and even considering the relative low volume overall, adjustment still creates a lifeless low-end. For all of this disc’s use of positionals, one key .1 channel seems to be voided.
Director Neil Blomkamp is all over the bonuses to tell his background story, beginning with Journey to Elysium in three parts. Nearing 50 minutes, this making-of is sharply constructed and detailed. Additional areas are expanded upon in Collaboration (actors, casting), Technology (approach to tech), In Support of Story (visual effects), and Engineering Utopia (designing Elysium with Syd Mead). You’re guided through 90-minutes of content here total.
One extended scene and an annoyingly slow, frustratingly designed interactive feature called Visions of 2154 contains a slew of art, but it’s too irritating to actually find. Some trailers round it off.