WATCH: The action-packed trailer for Matt Damon's Elysium
District 9 director Neil Blomkamp is back with his signature mix of action and social commentary, as Damon takes on the one-percenters in a sci-fi dystopia
A ruggedly bald Matt Damon becomes a violent hero of the 99 percent in Elysium.
A ruggedly bald Matt Damon becomes a violent hero of the 99 percent in Elysium. Screen shot

The trailer: Sci-fi fans have been anticipating Neil Blomkamp's follow-up to the brainy alien action flick District 9 since it hit theaters in 2009 — and four years later, we finally have our first glimpse at Elysium, a similarly potent blend of blockbuster action and social commentary. (Watch the trailer for Elysium below.) Elysium is set in the year 2154, when the human race is strictly divided, socially and geographically, between the haves and the have-nots. The wealthy live on a floating utopian space station called Elysium, and the rest of us remain on a devastated, overpopulated Earth. When earthbound ex-con Max (Matt Damon) discovers he has less than a week to live, he hatches a plan to get up to the medical facilities at Elysium — and decides he'll do whatever it takes to get there. Elysium co-stars Jodie Foster and District 9 protagonist Sharlto Copley, who plays the villain this time around. Does Elysium look like a worthy successor to District 9, or has Blomkamp fumbled this follow-up?

The reaction: The first Elysium trailer is quite promising, says Forrest Wickman at Slate. From swords to laser cannons to mysterious weaponized suits, Blomkamp knows how to deliver original action, and the social commentary is equally compelling, as Damon's character "sets out to occupy the utopian land of the rich." But will the social commentary make Elyisum too controversial for blockbuster success? "Filmed back in fall of 2011, Elysium coincided with the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and it's hard to miss the real-life parallels in the film's story," says Kyle Buchanan at Vulture. Blomkamp is "understandably wary that his summer movie could become a cable-news hot potato." Well, it's not all politics, says Jordan DeSaulnier at I Am Rogue. "Blomkamp has cooked up a a socially conscious, smart sci-fi action adventure with contemporary commentary, a scathingly satirical sense of humor, lots of fanboy friendly hardware, and even some cartoonish violence." We'll see if the mix proves as potent as it did in District 9 when Elysium hits theaters in August.

Scott Meslow is the entertainment editor and film and television critic for He has written about film and television at publications including The AtlanticPOLITICO Magazine, and Vulture.


Subscribe to the Week