Posts Tagged ‘Neill Blomkamp’

Paradise and the apocalypse: Utopian visions in ‘Fury Road,’ ‘Tomorrowland’ and ‘Elysium’

June 8, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 8, 2015

After seeing Mad Max: Fury Road this week, I couldn’t help but be reminded of two other films that toy with the idea of utopia: Brad Bird’s recent movie, Tomorrowland, and Neill Blomkamp’s 2013 feature film, Elysium.

(Dear reader, please beware: There be spoilers ahead!)

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Ambitious mix of action sequences and social justice ideas fuel Neill Blomkamp’s dynamic ‘Elysium’

August 19, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 19, 2013

Elysium is an action-packed science-fiction film with a heart for social justice.

Sadly, this fun, dynamic film has no real clue how to go about achieving social justice in the real, non-cinematic world. Still, the fast-moving storyline and appealing characters go a long way toward making up for that rather significant flaw.

The second feature to be written and directed by Neill Blomkamp, following District 9Elysium shares a number of things with its 2009 predecessor. Both take place in dusty, dystopian, urban futures. In both movies, machines hovering above Earth contain wonders that most humans are eager to obtain — wonders that also threaten to exacerbate existing inequality.

Elysium is set in and above Los Angeles in the year 2154. The film is named after a luxurious orbiting space station to which our overpopulated and polluted planet’s aristocrats moved themselves some years previously. The film’s hero is one Max Da Costa (Matt Damon), an ex-con who has been trying to walk the straight and narrow.

Da Costa works in an immense factory owned by Armadyne Corp., an arms maker controlled by the Elysium-based John Carlyle. After Da Costa loses his job thanks to an industrial accident, he turns to a crime lord named Spider for help. Before too long, Da Costa is shooting down Carlyle’s personal transport in an attempt to download the secrets in his head.  Read the rest of this entry »

I am the walrus: A bumbling functionary gets things moving in ‘District 9’

November 15, 2012

Writer-director Neill Blomkamp spins an absorbing science fiction tale in his outstanding 2009 debut feature, District 9.

The story is centered on a pleasant, bumbling corporate drone named Wikus Van De Merwe. (His first name is pronounced “VICK-us,” I believe; I confess to having no idea how his surname should be pronounced, even though it’s spoken multiple times throughout the movie.) A mid-level manager for MNU, a multi-national corporation, Van De Merwe (played by Sharlto Copley) has just won a big promotion: He will lead the effort to resettle the residents of a large slum near Johannesburg.

This being a science fiction movie, those residents are not black people but aliens. The prawns arrived in 1982 when their massive spaceship came to hover over the South African metropolis. Although it wasn’t clear why they traveled to Earth, the malnourished aliens — evidently leaderless and unable to control their vessel — were resettled in the so-called District 9. In Johannesburg circa 2010, they are looked upon by many South Africans, black and white, with roughly the same contempt that white residents of the nation visited upon black residents during its segregationist apartheid era.

Early on in the eviction effort, Van De Merwe discovers a mysterious device in one alien’s shack. Before he can bag and confiscate the item, it sprays him in the face. Within hours, his body begins changing — his fingernails fall out, he loses control of his bowels and he vomits at a party.

It soon becomes apparent that Van De Merwe is being turned into a prawn by the fluid. MNU discovers that he is capable of operating prawn weapons, something humans had previously been unable to do because the technology is inert unless used by those with alien genes. Van De Merwe is slated for vivisection.

He escapes and flees to District 9, where he begins to unravel the mystery of what is happening to him and how the changes can be reversed. In so doing, he forms an uneasy alliance with one alien — and he sets in motion a chain of portentous events.

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