District 9 brought us many, many good things. For starters it brought us a great film, brilliantly written and directed by newcomer Neill Blomkamp. It also brought us a great ‘accidental’ new actor in Sharlto Copley. It had CGI, action, comedy and a manic energy that was refreshing considering it was shot in a documentary style.
Following up that brilliant opening was always going to be a challenge, neither director nor actor were new, the surprise was gone, the game had to be upped as the expectation would be larger.
Blomkamp’s follow up to District 9 is the big budget sci-fi actioner Elsyium with Matt Damon in the lead role with Jodie Foster and Copley supporting. I don’t have much of a problem with Matt Damon it’s just that Team America World Police “Matt Damon” is always in my head when I see him on screen!
Anyway, I digress, Elysium sees the action take place in 2154 when the Earth is in a state. Pollution, disease, poverty are all rife and draconian man-built robots rule the roost. Meanwhile up on a man made space station known as Elysium, the wealthy live in a life of luxury. Diseases are a thing of the past, aging doesn’t happen, pollution is unknown and all is well.
An industrial accident sees Damon needing to get up to Elsyium to help himself, but that’s not so easy, so him and a bunch of criminals come up with a plan and one exoskeleton, brain patch, gun toting second later, the movie kicks into gear.
The movie is well conceived, it’s a bit more serious than District 9, it’s a lot more gory and probably just wins on the amount of CGI front too. When Copley arrives things get a bit more fun as his warrior character shines through in his attempt to stop Damon at all costs.
The problem with the movie is that it’s a lot more conventional then District 9, though the political motives are very similar with takes on immigration and segregation. The cinematography, such as it is, is stunning, as is the attention to detail on things like the space station and with the various robots that are in the film.
Perhaps the biggest problem, something I’ve spoken about time and time again, and I’m almost crying writing this as secretly I was hoping Blomkamp would be my new favourite director. The biggest problem is a complete and total lack of being able to shoot the action sequences, particularly the fight scenes. It’s shaky cam galore but it’s way more than I’ve ever seen before.
It’s so bad that you completely miss large chunks of action, you’re sometimes left looking at a chest plate or scenery whilst fighting goes on off screen. There is absolutely no excuse for this. Film is a visual medium above all else and all it requires is a step back with the camera, keep it still, your actors will convey the action you don’t need to do it with the camera, not this much.
That said this doesn’t detract from a decent enough follow up to District 9, it’s more conventional, popcorn, summer blockbuster style film but done very well.