Elysium

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Elysium Movie Poster Image
Dazzling but heavy-handed sci-fi has violence, language.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 109 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 49 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages
The movie's main message is a plea for tolerance, especially between different social classes. The movie illustrates the plight of the lower class, even as the upper class is painted as pure, evil villains. The "haves" look down their noses on the "have-nots" (and sometimes try to kill them). The movie's solution is simpleminded, but it at least addresses that the situation is wrong. The movie also makes a call for universal healthcare.
Positive Role Models & Representations
The main character isn't particularly complex, but he eventually learns that people can help one another without expecting anything in return. He sacrifices his own needs for the needs of others.
Violence
Strong sci-fi violence, with lots of fighting and shooting and some stabbing and swordplay. Viewers see lots of dripping blood, and characters die. Many robots and spaceships explode. A man violently slaps and forcibly kidnaps a woman (and her sick young daughter) to get information out of her. A bad guy is shown with his face blown off. A robot cop breaks the main character's arm. He's also exposed to radiation and is shown feeling sick and throwing up. A gory surgery scene shows the main character having an exoskeleton grafted onto his body.
Sex
There's a childhood romance between the main character and a nurse, but nothing comes of it -- no kissing, hugging, or even a date (he asks her to coffee, and she says yes, but they never get to go).
Language
"F--k" is used many times. "S--t" is also heard, as well as one or two uses of "balls," "ass," "a--hole," "hell," "oh my God," "goddamn," and "bitch."
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
On Earth, some extras are shown drinking beer, and the main character is offered "pills" to take when he gets agitated. (He turns them down.) Nothing comes of this initial idea about the "medicating" of society. Up on Elysium, the wealthy characters are shown sipping champagne.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that action/sci-fi movie Elysium is the long-awaited follow-up from the director of District 9. Like its predecessor, it has lots of strong sci-fi violence. Viewers see shootings, stabbings, killings, dripping blood, explosions, and death. A woman is slapped and kidnapped, and the main character (played by Matt Damon) goes through a gory operation (an exoskeleton is grafted onto his skin). Language is also an issue, with more than a dozen uses of "f--k," and one use of "s--t." There's a hint of drinking and drugs being an issue on the Earth of 2514 -- extras are seen drinking, and pills are offered -- but this idea goes nowhere. The movie's message, while heavy handed, is a plea for tolerance, especially among social classes.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8-year-old Written byChance M. February 15, 2018

Brutal violence, great characters, compelling plot, good movie

This movie is fabulous. That's the only way to say it, it's full of good and bad characters with some that are in the middle. Max is a great role mode... Continue reading
Adult Written byfonzieg April 3, 2015

Blomkamp's second film is just as great as his first!

Great special effects, awesome action, AMAZING MOVIE!!!
Kid, 12 years old August 6, 2014

AWESOME!

BEST MOVIE EVER!!!
Teen, 13 years old Written byMichael Payton March 2, 2014

Elysium

A fest of dazzling visuals and special effects, this action-packed thriller certainly delivers. If there are any complaints, they are as follows: the language i... Continue reading

What's the story?

In the year 2154, overpopulation and other problems on Earth have forced the wealthy to flee to a space station called Elysium that's filled with fresh air, sculpted lawns, swimming pools, and champagne. They also have "med bays" that can heal any human illness. But the poor on Earth have no such care and can never afford the trip -- and illegal flights to Elysium are instantly shot down. But after a radiation accident on the job, Max (Matt Damon) is determined to get there to heal himself. So, in exchange for a ticket, he agrees to a dangerous job and winds up with information that could change the entire structure of Elysium. Unfortunately, his childhood love (Alice Braga) and her sick daughter are also in need of help. Can Max save the day?

Is it any good?

This type of "haves vs. have-nots" story has been done many times in sci-fi, ranging from the terrific Metropolis and Gattaca to the dreadful Upside Down;  Elysium isn't one of the better ones. The movie starts out with awe-inspiring footage of Elysium, making it look almost like a man-made heaven. But director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) is fond of "realism," which in this case means a grimy look with lots of shaking cameras and blurry, jerky footage.
 
Blomkamp tells his story with a heavy hand, concentrating more on messages than on storytelling or on emotional connections with the characters. He's so focused on issues of tolerance, healthcare, and race and class discrimination that he often forgets about simple logic. Many scenes and many character motivations simply don't make sense. As a result, actors like Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, and Diego Luna mostly look lost. For a movie about important ideas, Elysium is, ultimately, not very smart.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Elysium's violence. Is all of the gore and death necessary to convey its messages of tolerance?
  • If you were rich and lived in the movie's world, would you move to Elysium? Would you be interested in helping others?
  • Does this movie make you hate rich people or sympathize with them? Are they stereotypes? What are some ways to understand them better?
  • Can you think of other sci-fi movies (or other types of media) that have tackled political ideas through metaphor and fantasy?

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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