Elysium- Trailer No.2
This week, "Elysium" opens. It's a big, glittery futuristic action-adventure written and directed by Neil Blomkamp, whose last movie was the critically drooled-over "District 9." "Elysium" takes place on a burnt-out Earth, where a poverty-stricken Los Angeles has been reduced to crummy skyscrapers and sooty rubble. Matt Damon plays a factory worker who is irradiated and given five days to live -- unless, of course, he can make the perilous journey to Elysium, an orbiting space station that's like a slightly more malevolent version of "WALL-E's" Axiom.

It's here that there are stunning, state-of-the-art machines that can make him totally radiation-free in a matter of minutes. The trick is getting there, and evading a bounty hunter named Kruger (Sharlto Copley) who's been tasked to retrieve him on orders from Secretary Delacourt, the head of security at Elysium (Jodie Foster). If we sound a little unsure of the details, it's because we haven't seen it yet. But that doesn't mean we aren't excited for the movie. Because, based on what we know about it, we are really, really pumped.

Below are the top 10 reasons why we can't wait for "Elysium."

1. It's Not a Sequel
The summer is usually a time where the multiplexes are choked with adaptations of comic books or sci-fi novels, or tired remakes of similar material. So far, we've been spared an atrocity on the scale of, say, the "Total Recall" remake from last year, but that doesn't mean Hollywood has gotten any more original, as is evidenced by the amount of big studio tent poles that are either remakes, sequels, spin-offs, or loose, unauthorized Xeroxes. "Elysium" is the rare, original effects-laden blockbuster that doesn't just come free of the trappings of a preexisting property or franchise, but seems like something unlike any movie before it.

2. It's From the Director of 'District 9'
2009 brought us "District 9," a movie in which displaced, crabby aliens called Prawns were displaced in the South African slums of Johannesburg, and with it came the arrival of a bold new cinematic talent in the form of Neil Blomkamp. The movie was a powerful statement in and of itself (remember that it was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar?), but it also signaled the arrival of a cinematic visionary along the lines of James Cameron or Guillermo del Toro (whose original sci-fi action movie, "Pacific Rim," is currently blowing minds worldwide). This is how Blomkamp cashed in all of his chips, with a big-time Hollywood spectacle that's scale and size dwarfs that of "District 9." We can't wait to see what he does with all these new toys.

3. It's Sharply Political
With "District 9," Blomkamp used South Africa's struggle with apartheid as a metaphoric backbone for his story of aliens living in a foreign land, and with "Elysium" it appears that he's using the widening gulf between the rich and poor as a way to stage a thrilling space adventure. This might be the first Hollywood movie that regards the "occupy" movement seriously while also inserting lots of cool robots and flying ships and mind swaps. Just because it has something to say, doesn't mean you can't have fun.

4.) It's Rated R
Unlike most of the fare that Hollywood churns out in the summertime, "Elysium" is very much rated R (early reports about the sequence teased in the trailer, where Damon is outfitted with a robotic exoskeleton, supposedly reaches "RoboCop"-levels of detail). What excites us so much about this is that, like "District 9," it's an expansive fantasy that is still comfortable being adults-only. Because, really, why should the summer belong to the kiddies?

5.) We Miss Matt Damon, Action Hero
It's been a while since Matt Damon, who starred in a trio of thrilling "Bourne" movies (and the unfairly overlooked "Green Zone"), has gotten to put on his combat boots and kick some ass. (Unless there's a deleted scene on the "Promised Land" DVD that we missed.) In "Elysium" he returns to the action-movie fold, but in a role that seems to be thoughtful and fearless (what other big action hero would shave his head like that?) Damon's choice in movies seems deliberate and careful and the fact that he would commit himself to something as out there-sounding as "Elysium" is a vote of confidence in and of itself, but that he's back to kicking ass just puts us over the top.

6.) Sharlto Copley Looks Like a Great Bad Guy
The exact nature of Sharlto Copley's character, Kruger, hasn't been revealed, but he appears to be some kind of bounty hunter, in the Boba Fett mold, dispatched by Jodie Foster to stop Matt Damon's character from getting to Elysium. He's got a scary beard and, in one TV spot, it looked like he was brandishing a laser shield. Copley is Blomkamp's childhood friend, and he certainly made an impression in "District 9" (he has worked sporadically since, most memorably in Joe Carnahan's "A-Team" movie). In Blomkamp's first movie, he was sweet and misunderstood, a goofball transformed by circumstance and fate. Here, he looks bad to the bone, which is quite a transformation, indeed.

7.) Syd Mead Did Design Work
Syd Mead, the renowned industrial designer who contributed vehicles and spaceships to things like "Blade Runner," "TRON," "Aliens," and "Mission to Mars," is something of a rock star in the science-fiction community. (When J.J. Abrams needed to actualize the machine that made the masks in "Mission: Impossible III," he called one man to figure out how it could be done: Mead.) This is a man with seemingly boundless imagination, who can see into the future and predict exactly where we'll be in the next 50 years (and what we'll be driving). And he contributed something to "Elysium," although what, exactly, is unclear. We would have to bet it's the overall look of the Elysium and the design of props like the med-bay that's glimpsed in the trailer -- you know, the one with the giant Versace logo on one end. His genius is unparalleled, and what he's cooked up for Blomkamp, a filmmaker who clearly has a huge appreciation for his work, must be dynamite.

8.) Jodie Foster's Hair
Jodie Foster, who plays the slick French governess of Elysium, has the slick blond doo of Robin Wright on "House of Cards." And that's pretty awesome. Also awesome: the fact that Jodie Foster is in a big-time action movie with a premise this unique. Go, Clarice!

9.) It's Got Robots
Between "Iron Man 3," "The Wolverine," "The World's End," and "Pacific Rim," you'd think we've had our share of robots. But the fact that there are going to be robots (or androids) in "Elysium" still makes us giddy. These robots look lean and sinewy and pack a punch, and, what's more: Damon's character works in a factory that produces them. Talk about an unlikely action hero.

10.) It's the Last Big Summer Movie We're Jazzed About
It's August. The summer is coming to a close, and with it the big-time, wooooo-we're-out-of-school escapist fare is calming down, making way for the festival favorites and the Oscar bait-y prestige pictures. It's kind of like that sensation of creeping dread that you felt on Sunday nights as a kid, because you knew that the next morning that you'd have to get up and go to school; the fun is over and the serious stuff is beginning. We hope that the summer movie season goes out with a bang, with a movie that's big and adventurous -- and has robots.
Elysium Movie Poster
Based on 47 critics

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categories Features, Movies