Once upon a time, upstart South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp was tapped to direct an adaptation of the insanely popular Halo videogame series. Blomkamp, who had yet to direct a feature-length film in his budding career, was given the director’s chair by executive producer Peter Jackson, who was impressed by Blomkamp’s short film work. Failed negotiations over money deals between studios stalled and eventually killed the project. Following the collapse of the Halo film, Peter Jackson helped secure Blomkamp’s next project. What resulted from this holy union was District 9, the sleeper hit of 2009 that wowed audiences around the world and even secured an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture in the process.
Blomkamp is back on the scene this year with Elysium, his return to the science fiction genre. This time, he’s got an honest to goodness Hollywood leading man and woman coming along on the ride as well, with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster face off in a future that seems like a utopia for some and a nightmare for most.
The film is set over a hundred years in the future, where class warfare has separated the human population in two. The poor live on the Earth’s surface, now overpopulated and war-torn, while the wealthy reside in a space station called Elysium that orbits the planet and provides its denizens with a life free of crime, poverty, hunger and sickness. Matt Damon stars as Max De Costa, a factory worker who has five days to live after a work-related accident gives him an accelerated cancer virus. With the only cure for his illness on the space station, he plots to steal rich man’s identity and make his way to Elysium. He butts heads with Elysium’s ruthless defense secretary (Jodie Foster) and her police forces led by a man named Kruger (Sharlto Copley, the star of Blomkamp’s District 9).
It makes me happy when a director who has a particular vision is given vast sums of money to make original films, as the reported budget of the movie is One-Hundred Million without including the marketing. Even if I felt District 9 had its problems, it was ultimately an engaging movie that showed great passion on the part of the filmmaker, a filmmaker proving himself in a big way.
As is becoming standard fare for Blomkamp, the movie seems to be carrying along with a comment on today’s class system and health care. Science Fiction, as a general rule, is best when it is commenting on the issues of today by extrapolating the issue to its extreme and seeing what happens. Hopefully, Elysium will continue this trend.
Be sure to check out Elysium when it is released on August 9.
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