- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Director Neill Blomkamp‘s dystopian sci-fi thriller from 2013 returns to home entertainment realms in an ultra-high definition format with a generous supply of extras in Elysium (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated: R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 100 minutes, $30.99).

Mr. Blomkamp was not able to top the success of his dystopian sci-fi hit “District 9” but still managed to deliver an effects-loaded action film.

Set in 2154, the movie exposes viewers to a luxurious, high-tech space station called Elysium accommodating the wealthy remnants of humanity while the less than privileged are forced to live in the remains of a diseased, polluted and overpopulated planet Earth.

Enter Max Da Costa (Matt Damon), a blue collar worker from Los Angeles. After an industrial accident, he is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation and sent home to die.

Knowing that Elysium has the advanced medical technology to cure him, Max agrees to help a smuggler steal data from a weapons contractor to get a free ride and even he gets painfully wired into a cybernetic exoskeleton suit to help with the mission.

Max secures the data, but is now hunted by Elysium’s ruthless defense secretary (a barely used Jodie Foster) and her band of mercenaries led by the lunatic Kruger (Sharlto Copley) sent to retrieve the valuable data.

Max eventually gets to Elysium for a showdown that could uncover a conspiracy as well as change the space station’s role in saving humanity.

The director crafts two distinct, visually intense worlds (urban decay versus paradise) wrapped with dazzling visual effects such as the law enforcement robots and Elysium’s advanced medical technology.

However, the action-loaded narrative leaves little room in the script to further explore or explain the major conspiracy or the social political complexities tied to suppression of the lower class by the rich.

“Elysium” succeeds for an evening of popcorn-munching home entertainment, but viewers will struggle looking for its story’s goals.

4K in action: The high dynamic range enhancements and 2160p presentation take advantage of a transfer culled from a pure 4K digital intermediate master.

The results are reference quality for home entertainment lovers witnessed by any of the space station’s flyovers showcasing the lush greenery and rich architecture of Elysium packed with detail and sharp colors.

Clarity pays off when examining the overbearing robot law enforcers on Earth with their scuffed olive-green metal armor plates as they look like beefier versions of Trade Federation droids.

Equally impressive were scenes showcasing a robot shattered to bits in slow motion from explosion rounds and the detailed visual effects used for the reconstruction of a human’s badly injured face.

Best extras: Sony offers a treat to hardcore fans by offering a selection of featurettes culled from not only the 2013 Blu-ray release but the extra disc from 2013 Best Buy exclusive release and the Blokamp3 Limited Edition set from 2015.

Found on both the 4K and Blu-ray discs in the set, the movie deconstruction begins with a 29-minute look at the action and grit of the film.

Topics covered are the often practical effects; make-up effects including the application of fake tattoos; the weapon and exo-armor design highlighted by Max’s Hulk suit; test drives of the beat up, futuristic GT-R sportscar (with a breakdown of the data heist sequence); combat stunts; the blowing up of a human; and fight choreography, all explained by Mr. Blomkamp, cast and crew.

Next, viewers get a six-minute overview on the key characters with interviews of all their actors and five minutes on the use of miniature models in the visual effects focused on the Raven spaceship shuttle crashing on Elysium’s surface.

The Blu-ray disc offers the entire collection of extras that starts with an interactive called Visions of 2154.

The presentation allows users to click though to either Earth or Elysium and, in a computer-type interface, access screens that highlight robots, exo suits, weapons, locations and vehicles through short segments featuring artwork, storyboards, sketches, 3D models and deconstructed visual effects shots.

It’s a fun extra that reminds viewers of the days when studios bothered to offer true bonus content that took advantage of the format.

Next, and equally worth watching, is a 45-minute, three-part documentary covering the origins of the film (with Elysium described by Mr. Blomkamp as “Beverly Hills in outer space,”); the pre- and post-production process; on-set action; and shooting in locations such as Mexico and Vancouver, all supplemented with artwork and crew interviews.

Other extras that round out the nearly exhaustive look at “Elysium” include another 13 minutes on the casting, 10 minutes on the futuristic technology realized in 2154, 10 minutes breaking down computer visual effects used in a scene and the production design behind building the space station Elysium (actually based on a 1970s Stanford University concept).

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