Chekhov's Gunman


Elysium Spoiler Review- “Like Pulling Teeth with Robot Arms”

Elysium Matt Damon

Lots and lots of spoilers! Spoilers everywhere! This review needs more spoilers like a fish needs a bicycle…

Confession time, before we get started here: I haven’t seen District 9. Now, now, don’t be mad at me. We all have glaring holes in our film history knowledge, and District 9 is one of mine. I fully acknowledge that it is a film that I need to see, but before you yell at me and say that I can’t grade this film because I haven’t seen it, how’s the full four hour cut of Seven Samurai going, jackass?

Elysium is not good. And not in a fun, campy kind of way like Robocop or Robocop 2. It is an embarrassing piece of film that somehow has a Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which leads me to believe that critics were given a different copy of the film and that we were given the deleted scenes. The pile of crap that is this movie is so large and vast that one might suggest even your mother couldn’t eat it, so I’m going to break this down bit by bit and try to see what exactly went so catastrophically wrong.

Matt Damon

The Matt Damon of this film suffers from that problem all recent Matt Damon characters have fallen into in that they are not so much a character as they are a metaphorical representation of an entire nation. In the film Green Zone, Damon played “America,” a virtuous white military man caught up in the Iraq War. In Elysium, Matt Damon plays Mexico.

As the only white person left on Earth, Matt Damon is responsible for being our eyes into a world we couldn’t relate to without a Caucasian being involved and has the weight of saving all of those brown people on his shoulders. Ah, the White Man’s Burden….

For those of you who don’t know, Elysium is about a nightmarish future if the whole world became East LA and a Mexican immigration metaphor, and all the white people moved to the Citadel from Mass Effect, leaving Asians and people of color curiously absent. After Matt Damon becomes sick with radiation poisoning because his boss is a complete tool, he gets some robot armor strapped onto his body so that he can go kick in some faces on Elysium. One only wonders how many men died while these guys practices screwing robot parts into people’s spines, because they are far too practiced at it for this to be a trial run.

The robot armor is also apparently invisible, as no one ever notices that Matt Damon has it. When Matt Damon’s childhood nurse friend Love Interest (who is the same age as Matt Damon like I’m the same age as dirt) runs up to Matt Damon when he’s passed out in the gutter outside a hospital, she notices a small puncture wound in his stomach before she never says, “Hello, Matt Damon, who I saw two days ago for the first time in thirty years two days ago, where did you get this magic robot armor that you didn’t have two days ago?” Ugh.

And, yes, it’s very sad when Matt Damon sacrifices himself like we all knew that he would, but since I never really cared about him as a character, his death meant nothing to me besides the joy I felt knowing that I could leave now.

Love Interest

Love Interest suffers from a similar problem to Matt Damon, as she is not really a character so much as she is what every diehard liberal thinks all Mexican people are, except she at least has an obnoxious kid. Seriously, when her kid stops Robot Matt Damon to bandage his hand while he’s trying to leave and tell him maybe the worst “This childhood story will be important later” story in the history of those stories, it was the moment I felt closest to Robot Matt Damon because I, too, wanted that child to shut up and go away. Luckily enough for everyone, director Neill Blomkamp had the foresight to put that child in a coma halfway through the production and we were saved further stories about meerkats and hippos and friendship overcoming all.

Not only is Love Interest boring, but she’s boring AND a minority, which I suppose makes her deep?

The Metaphor

This film is about as subtle as a Swastika. The people of Elysium are all white and privileged and speak French, and the folks on the desolate, dirty wasteland of Earth are entirely Hispanic, and the films ends with everybody on Earth getting free healthcare.


This metaphor could possibly have been fine if it had even an ounce of subtlety or the slightest interesting thing to say about the subject. We know the immigration policy is bad, Neill. Tell us something we don’t already know. Elysium is a film commonly mistaken for being “deep” because it’s about something other than robots fighting, when honestly any fourteen-year-old could have written the same thing with exactly the same amount of depth. There is no insight here. It’s just a thing that happened, now featuring robots. This movie has the emotional depth and action quality of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

The Action

Elysium never actually decides whether it wants to be a balls-out action movie, a riveting topical piece, or an emotional drama and decides to be terrible at all three. The film uses slow motion like diabetics use insulin shots. I think in lieu of actually thinking of any unique or interesting action sequences, they just decided to make them slower. It’s as if they finished the movie, discovered it was only an hour long, and decided to just slow half of it down to compensate.

Matt Damon is equipped with a robotic exoskeleton and should be beating the living hell out of these terrible robots he used to irradiate at work for some reason, and instead opts to hide behind trucks for most of the film.

Everyone in this film also seems to be very forgetful. In one of the film’s “climactic” final action beats, Matt Damon finds a gun that rips people apart when he shoots it. He uses it once, then simply tosses it aside, forgetting to use it against the film’s big final bad guy who is just… just awful.

The Music

Elysium frequently commits my cardinal sin of movie music: Punctuating dramatic or sad moments with music that is just one woman singing a vowel for an extended period of time.

It’s exactly the score of every film ever set during the Vietnam war, except this time laid over images of Matt Damon crying at pictures of Earth while some fella named Spider steals stuff from his brain that the magic healing machines totally could have fixed by apparently couldn’t fix.

The score that isn’t that one lone lady is either dubstep or something that I think is literally from the Dark Knight soundtrack. The Inception noise happens no less than six dozen times.

The Villain

My getting to this section is equal parts dread and joy, because this villain is maybe the worst thing I have seen at the movies this year. Is there a memo that was sent out to bad scriptwriters that said all villains had to be really rapey? Because I have had about enough of the Mentally-Unhinged-Really-Rapey-And-Indiscriminately-Violent villain trope to last me my children’s lifetimes.

Elysium’s villain is named Kruger, because “subtle” is not a word in Blomkamp’s oeuvre. He speaks louder than most humans have ever dreamt of being and he turns the film into a cartoon. He is the animated hunter, turning Robot Matt Damon into some rascally woodland critter.

He speaks in a radically and indiscernible accent that, accurate or no, takes me out of the film every single time he opened his mouth. All you can hear are vowels. He talks about taking Love Interest as a “woeaiff,” which I think is supposed to mean “wife.” He chases Matt Damon around with a sword like Darth Maul and releases a bunch of drones to search for him like Darth Maul and ends up breaking in half after falling down a long chasm like Darth Maul. And, Blomkamp, if you’re going to take hints from one Star Wars film, Phantom Menace is absolutely the worst one to study beneath.

Even during his final battle with Matt Damon, which would have been a lot cooler if the two had spoken more than three words to each other throughout the film, is awful because I never took him seriously for a moment, even if he did strap on his own Robot Matt Damon robot suit that they just kind of had lying around. He is a paper thin villain in a paper thin film that is only notable because Neill Blomkamp’s name is on it.

My whole theatre turned against Elysium. A crowded movie house kept shifting in their seats and coughing due to a total lack of interest. Many people got up during the middle of big action sequences to go to the bathroom. The friends I was with, some of whom had seen District 9 and some of whom had not, all thought this was an abysmal way to waste ten dollars. For once I wasn’t the buzzkill who didn’t like the “cool movie.” Finally I’m not the only one who didn’t like Iron Man 2. Elysium would be the worst film I’d seen this year if Man of Steel hadn’t come out.

Final Verdict: D+ – Boring, confused, preachy, and over-the-top, Elysium disappoints on every meaningful level.

Chekhov’s Gunman is a film and television blog moderated by Kevin Lanigan, a future writer of movies and TV and current writer of tear-stained letters to Neill Blomkamp. Be sure to follow or subscribe above, and comment below about how I’m wrong about Elysium.

Stay tuned for movie and TV reviews like this one, as well as some great Good Stuff, and many Mexican Standoffs.

You can also follow Kevin on Twitter.

White people suck.


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8 thoughts on “Elysium Spoiler Review- “Like Pulling Teeth with Robot Arms”

  1. That was a brilliantly written review sir and I cannot help but agree. The whole premise was about as subtle as a testicle-waxing and the world made no sense. Every character was either a two-dimensional down-on-their-luck hispanic stereotype or a two-dimensional moustache-twirling evil white capitalist. Matt Damon, bizarrely, falling into the former category.

    A few other things that bothered me:

    1) The Magic Medicine Health Box
    So this is apparently an inexpensive, super-fast way to heal absolutely anything. There’s one in every home. It’s as common as a toaster. They even have hundreds of ships filled with the things waiting to go at a flip of a button. But they absolutely cannot be shared with Earth, because… WE ARE RICH AND LOOK AT US SWIM!

    2) The “Entire World” Reboot
    This is why you should always keep a backup of your work.

    On a separate note, District 9 is worth a look – while I didn’t quite welcome it as the sci-fi masterpiece some said it was, it is a good, original bit of sci-fi and is approximately 98 times better than Elysium.

    • Good to know I’m not crazy after this flick came back with rave reviews. But you’re absolutely right about both of those things. Like, these magic health boxes can just repair an entire human face in three seconds? That’s a thing that’s supposed to happen?

      And the “we won’t share our magic healthcare with you” white people would work a lot better if I didn’t know a bunch of people, myself included, who have little or no healthcare to speak of.

  2. So glad I’m not the only one who hated this film.

    Posted my [non-spoiler] review if you’re curious.

    • I found your review to be right on target!

      Elysium was sloppy, dull, and without an original thought in its head. Can’t give it a pass just because it’s Neill, you know?

      • That’s it in a nutshell. I like both Neill Blomkamp and Sharlto Copley, but at this point I’ve seen to much from both of them to unequivocally vouch for their skill.

        What kills me about this film is that so little screenwriting change would’ve been required to make this work. Limit the medipods in some way (starting with not bringing a guy back from a face-grenade), give us a reason why they can’t be provided to the entire planet, and acknowledge the fairly obvious point that they wouldn’t solve all of the myriad problems on Earth at the end. I don’t need the film to completely un-fuck its world; I just need it to acknowledge how fucked it truly is, and give us a better reason why.

        You know what I think when I think “space platform”? I think stranded. Dependent. Not self-sustaining. Where is the friendly country on Earth with the massive wealth that made this platform happen? Was it the US? China? What’s the state of it now? How is Elysium self-sustaining? Is it just independently wealthy enough that it can buy whatever supplies it needs from Earth? Would a simple embargo be enough to bring it to its knees?

        SO MANY QUESTIONS. This world bothered me with how much it intrigued me.

      • The people of Elysium all speak French, so did France and America get together and do this. If it was China, there was an awful deficit of Asians floating around.

        And the face grenade recovery was so dumb. It’s an eight-year-old’s idea of what a badass is. And I will never, EVER be able to get past his accent.

  3. Pingback: Blue Jasmine Movie Review- “I Predict Oscar Gold and a Cardiac Arrest” | Chekhov's Gunman

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