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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Drama > Politics > Prejudice > Outer Space > Elysium (2013/Sony Blu-ray w/DVD) + Elysium: The Art Of The Film (2013/By Mark Salisbury/Hardcover/Titan Books)

Elysium (2013/Sony Blu-ray w/DVD) + Elysium: The Art Of The Film (2013/By Mark Salisbury/Hardcover/Titan Books)

Picture: B/C+ Sound: B+/C+ Extras: B- Film/Book: B-

Neill Blomkamp's Elysium (2013) is his epic science fiction follow-up to the critical smash success of District 9 (reviewed elsewhere on this site) which was also in the same genre, but this is not a sequel, yet it has the same social conscious and does not hold back in a vision of the future that seems to possible, but is very ugly. In this case, after so many elites and corporations denied climate change and could care less about how much they polluted, a giant space station named Elysium containing the riches, most powerful, most privileged and connected with all the best nature, science, wealth and science has been collected and the declining earth is now ruled from there.

Matt Damon plays Max, a poor worker with a so-called criminal past just barely getting by and stuck like everyone else on earth who is part of the disposable majority. We find in flashback how he always wanted to go to Elysium, but was told he was not allowed without explanation, but the idea has always stuck with him and we see some of his story in flashback, including when he is dreaming. After an altercation with some police droids leaves him with a broken arm, he meets his old female friend as an adult (Alice Braga) now doing medical work. Things get worse for him when he is exposed to deadly radiation levels in a work accident that should have never happened.

Turns out his friend's daughter is sick with Leukemia, so he has new reasons to get to Elysium, where they have the technology to quickly heal so many diseases. Unfortunately, his rebel friends keep getting potential escapees from earth to the station killed as the defenses to keep them down (figuratively and literally) by those determined to keep their paradise elite and safe from those they hate as well as from subversive ideas. However, there is a power struggle and a determined official (Jodie Foster in a dynamically cold, effective turn surprising us once again with her range) is at odds with the heads of the station.

She is doing some of their dirty work, but they don't want to know how she is doing what they will not, so she finds a way to take advantage of this gap to take over the station herself and will use a rogue assassin and killer named Kruger (Sharito Copley, who was so good in District 9) to get what she wants.

I will forego the rest of the details of the plot so you will be surprised, but thought the screenplay was decent, though the film takes a more commercial turn midway when all the plot elements and subplots build into a nice action sequence. The problem is that after that, the story leans on some conventions and a bit of formula that get in the way of it being as effective as it could be, though the cast (also including Diego Luna and William Fitchner) gels very well and makes this easily one of the best big budget films of 2013 and one about something, about people for a change. It did moderately well at the box office and on Blu-ray and DVD, deserves to find a much wider audience.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer is an all digital HD shoot using anamorphic Panavision lenses with RED EPIC and Canon HD cameras, resulting in one of the best HD digital shoots of its kind to date. Blomkamp and Director of Photography Trent Opaloch once again push the format into something else something better, something with character and something that has narrative visual context. The great Syd Mead co-designed the look of the entire film and they really know how to run with it. The anamorphically enhanced DVD is much softer and passable at best, not being able to handle the depth and detail the Blu-ray can.

As for sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix on the Blu-ray is on of the best audio mixes of the year with true state-of-the-art editing, design and more character than you usually encounter anymore on such big budget productions. Originally issued in both the Dolby Atmos 11.1 and Auro 11.1 sound formats, this mixdown is very effective, has some fine demo moments and can go a few rounds with the sound design of any Blu-ray release to date. This will really challenge and soar on the better home theater systems. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is fairly good, but no match for the DTS-MA 7.1 by a longshot.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, while both formats offer two featurettes: Collaboration: Crafting & Performances In Elysium and Engineering Utopia: Creating A Society In The Sky. The Blu-ray adds such exclusives as Extended Scenes and four more Behind The Scenes featurettes: Visions Of 2154: An Interactive Exploration Of The Art & Design Of Elysium, The Technology Of 2154, The Journey To Elysium (in 3 parts) and In Support Of Story: The Visual Effects Of Elysium.

Though those extras are extensive and have many of the art and concept works used in the making of the film, I still found Mark Salisbury's new coffee table book Elysium: The Art Of The Film an amazing (and very collectible)volume showing the art and more on very high quality paper with excellent image reproduction that book lovers and film fans will love. At 178 pages, it is a solid companion to the film and is fun like these books used to always be.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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