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After all the fanfare, Neill Blomkamp’s second sci-fi outing doesn’t reach the hefty heights he achieved with his 2009 breakout film District 9.

This Matt Damon and Jodie Foster headlined action-drama still provides a solid watch – but doesn’t really fulfill the potential shown in the trailer.

As South African director Blomkamp had set the bar so high, we were expecting something simply out-of-this-world – but in the end Elysium turns out to be pretty generic.

That’s despite an intriguing premise, which sees the very wealthy live on a disease-free man-made space station orbiting the planet – with security run by Jodie Foster (complete with weird accent that hampers her performance) as ruthless defence secretary Delacourt – and the rest of the population living on a ruined Earth.

Enter ex-convict Max (Damon), who must get to this idyllic Utopia to save his life after being hit by an incurable bout of radiation – and in the process gets his hands on Delacourt’s plans to overthrow Elysium’s president as he’s turned into a (kind of) super soldier.

Again, like in District 9, Sharlto Copley (who played the lead in that film) is the best human aspect in this, playing deranged ex-military man Kruger hired by Delacourt to do her dirty work on Earth – and he’s sent to try and stop Max achieving his goal.

While there’s much to enjoy with Blompkamp’s beautifully crafted polarising worlds and some decent set-pieces, the film seems to run out of concrete ideas very early.

This leaves it plodding towards the inevitable finale, with the ‘shanty’ townships on Earth unfortunately giving a distinct feeling of District 9.5 – with robots substituting aliens.

Despite good performances from Copley and the ever-reliable Damon – counter-acting an indifferent one from Foster – it never really escapes District 9’s shadow with more than a handful of production similarities.

This in turn puts Blomkamp’s ‘genius’ tag temporarily on hold – but he still does enough to garner admiration.

Gavin Miller

Cast: Matt Damon, Sharlto Copley, Jodie Foster, Alice Braga, Wagner Moura, Diego Luna, William Fichtner, Faran Tahir, Emma Tremblay

Running Time: 1hrs 40mins

Director: Neill Blomkamp [youtube id=”QILNSgou5BY” width=”600″ height=”350″]


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