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‘Elysium’ Review Roundup: Does It Live Up To ‘District 9?’

TheElysiumreviews are in ahead of the film’s Friday Aug. 8 release. Starring Matt Damon, the movie is Neil Blomkamp’s science-fiction-action epic followup to his debut Oscar-nominated hit, “District 9.”

“Elysium” finds Matt Damon playing Max, a factory worker who lives in the crowded confines of an overpopulated, disease-ridden Earth in the year 2154.

After an industrial accident exposes him to radiation and leaves him with a cancer virus that will kill him in five days, Max is left with no choice but to infiltrate an elite-populated space station named Elysium, where the only hope for a cure exists. To increase his chances of surviving the dangerous and action-packed journey, he dons a powerful metal suit that acts as a superhuman exoskeleton.

Like “District 9,”  “Elysium” takes an allegorical approach to hot-button issues such as immigration, health care and class warfare, but unlike District 9, most critics were not feeling it.

While some praised Blomkamp for his mastery of visual effects and his frank handling of the serious issues of the day, many critics felt ‘Elysium’ disintegrated into a cookie-cutter summer blockbuster flick.

Does “Elysium” live up to the success of its critically acclaimed predecessor, “District 9?” Here’s a roundup of what the critics had to say:

Stephanie Zacharek of  The Village Voice:

“Damon is as buff as ever, maybe even more so–it’s hard to believe he made the first of his Bourne movies nearly 10 years ago. But watching him lumber through ‘Elysium‘s’ bramble of lofty ideals is no damn fun. He gets to turn on the charm in a few brief scenes with Max’s childhood sweetheart (played by Alice Braga). But mostly, he radiates a grim world-weariness that just doesn’t suit him, and it’s hard to say if the movie sags around the weight of his performance or if he’s just working inhumanly hard to hold this heavy-spirited picture aloft.”

Scott Foundas of Variety  reports:

“Even working within a more conventional framework, Blomkamp again proves to be a superb storyteller. He has a master’s sense of pacing, slowly immersing us into his future world rather than assailing us with nonstop action, and envisioning that world with an architect’s eye for the smallest details… If ‘Elysium’ falls short as social commentary, as entertainment it rarely falters.”

Anthony Lane of The New Yorker writes:

“At last, a good big film. The legacy of the summer, thus far, has been jetsam: moribund movies that lie there, bloated and beached, gasping to break even. But here is something angry and alive… Has Blomkamp maintained the promise, and the threat, of ‘District 9?’ Not quite. He remains more gripped by setup than by resolution, and the third act of ‘Elysium’ proceeds by bludgeon and blunder, leaving a wounded logic in its wake… [But] the director’s fiercest gift is not to invent the future, as a plausible dream, but to report on it as if it already existed.”

Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press wrote:

“One thing you can’t deny, though, is its visual beauty, and, as in ‘District 9,’ his masterful use of special effects. It’s not for nothing that Blomkamp, at the tender age of 33, has been called a visionary artist of the genre… If ‘Elysium’ doesn’t nearly live up to ‘District 9,’ it shows enough panache to leave us waiting enthusiastically for his next effort.”

Alonso Duralde of  The Wrap reports:

“Damon’s role often seems more physically than emotionally taxing, but he plunges into it enthusiastically. We can’t help rooting for Max, no matter how stacked the cards are against him in this exploitive society.

“Besides overplaying its subtext, the other major flaw of ‘Elysium’ is Foster’s performance, perhaps this accomplished actress’ most risible work since ‘Siesta.’ Strutting around in power suits, barking at lackeys and doing her best Alexander Haig, it’s like watching a Joan Crawford impersonation delivered in that vexing accent from ‘After Earth.’

“Still, as an effects-laden action piece, ‘Elysium’ delivers the goods. It might not be the thinking man’s fill-in-the-blank that some viewers were eagerly anticipating, but it’s a solid adventure that oversells its deeper meanings.”

Todd McCarthy oThe Hollywood Reporter wrote:

“Coming in the wake of  ‘After Earth’ and ‘White House Down,’ this marks Sony’s third big-budget disappointment of the summer, the problems this time stemming from deflating final-act script problems that one would think could have been easily identified…  This one puts rugged action and convincing visual effects at the service of a sociologically pointed haves-and-have-nots storyline, but when the air goes out of this balloon, it goes fast. There will no doubt be partisans, but an embrace by the masses will elude it.”

Moviegoers will have their say when “Elysium” crashes into theaters this Friday. Check out an extended Elysium trailer here.

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