Release Date(s)2013 (February 9, 2021)
Studio(s)Kinberg Genre, MRC, QED International, Alphacore, TriStar Pictures (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B+
[Editor’s Note: This review is dedicated to the memory of Syd Mead.]
In the mid-22nd Century, Earth is a diseased-ridden, overpopulated ruin. The ultra-wealthy have left the planet entirely, having preserved their utopian lifestyle on the luxury space habitat of Elysium up in orbit. But that lifestyle comes at a dear price for those left behind. Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) is one of them, having grown up in the city-wide slum that is Los Angeles. He’s escaped a life of crime to work on the line at a factory that makes robots and advanced weapons. But when an accident exposes him to a lethal dose of radiation, Max knows that his only hope of surviving is to reach Elysium and its advanced medical technology. So he turns to an old friend in the criminal underground for help. The price for that assistance is one more dirty job. And Max will have to face others bent on stopping him too, including Elysium’s hawkish defense secretary, Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster), and her vicious sleeper agent back on Earth (Sharlto Copley).
While some of its space-based technologies seem a bit fantastical (“re-atomizing” biological tissue, for example), Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium excels at creating a believably brutish environment for those who live on Earth. The L.A. depicted here owes much Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, but goes a few steps deeper into the city’s underbelly—a much more sun-bleached yet harsher, dirtier, and grittier place. The story also has the real energy of desperation and some balls in its set piece action sequences too. However, while Weta Digital’s VFX are quite good, cinematographer Trent Opaloch goes a little too overboard on handheld camera occasionally—not so much as to sour the experience, but it does get a little overwhelming at times. In any case, the film’s script is compelling (not too far from conceivable) and the cast is solid across the board. In addition to Damon, Foster, and Copely, Alice Braga (Predators), William Fichter (Contact), Diego Luna (Rogue One), Wagner Moura (Narcos), and Faran Tahar (Star Trek) add to the mix. And if all that isn’t enough to interest sci-fi fans, no less than the late great Syd Mead contributed to the film’s production design.
Elysium was captured digitally in the Redcode RAW codec (at 3.3K) using Red Epic cameras and Panavision Primo anamorphic lenses (with a little HD video mixed in shot on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II). It was finished as a 4K Digital Intermediate at 2.39:1, with VFX rendered in 2K and upsampled. For its release on Ultra HD, that 4K DI was graded for high dynamic range (in this case, it’s HDR10 only). The image quality is excellent, with detail a tick or two improved over the previous 1080p HD presentation, though the combination of shaky cam and dense atmospherics do result in a modest loss in very fine detailing. Still, the HDR grade does much to make the shadows deeper and the brights more realistic, while also enriching the coloring. As mentioned, the film’s Earth-based exteriors exhibit sun-baked desaturation, but interior scenes (and especially everything set in space) have a much more lush and vibrant palette. Overall, this is a very good—if not quite reference grade—UHD image and a nice upgrade over the already terrific Blu-ray edition.
Primary audio on the 4K disc is offered in a new lossless English Dolby Atmos mix of excellent quality. The soundstage is medium-wide up front, with lovely hemispheric extension and smooth movement in the surrounds. Dialogue is clear and moves naturally around the front-center, while Ryan Amon’s suspenseful score filters in from all around. The height channels engage often for combat action and spaceflight scenes, and add overhead atmospherics throughout. There’s also lovely rumble in the LFE. This is a very good Atmos mix, if not an aggressive one. Like the video, it’s just a little short of reference quality, but it’s a modest upgrade from the previous Blu-ray’s 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix and it still manages to impress. That same DTS-HD MA mix carries over here too and you also get English Descriptive Audio, 2.0 Dolby Digital in Korean, 5.1 Dolby Digital in Catalan, Czech, French, Hindi, Hungarian, Japanese, Polish Voice Over, Portuguese, Russian, Castilian Spanish, Latin Spanish, Thai, Turkish, and Ukrainian, and 7.1 DTS-HD MA in German and Italian. Optional subtitles are also available in English, English SDH, Arabic, Cantonese, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Castilian Spanish, Latin Spanish, Swedish, Thai, and Turkish.
Sony’s Ultra HD package includes two discs, offering the film in 4K and also 1080p HD on Blu-ray (specifically, the same disc found in the 2015 Blomkamp3 release). The 4K disc includes the following extras (in 1080p and SDR):
- Exoskeletons, Explosions, and the Action Choreography of Elysium (HD – 29:48)
- The Hero, The Psychopath, and the Characters of Elysium (HD – 6:15)
- The Art of the Elysium Miniatures (HD – 4:40)
- Bugatti 2154 (HD – 4:50)
- Theatrical Trailer 1 (HD – 2:13)
- Theatrical Trailer 2 (HD – 2:32)
- International Trailer (HD – 3:43)
The Blu-ray Disc includes most of that and adds a bit more:
- Visions of 2154 Interactive Gallery (HD – 19:59 in all)
- Extended Scene: Kruger Wakes Up (HD – 1:45)
- The Journey to Elysium: Part 1 – Envisioning Elysium (HD – 8:46)
- The Journey to Elysium: Part 2 – Capturing Elysium (HD – 26:31)
- The Journey to Elysium: Part 3 – Enhancing Elysium (HD – 10:31)
- Collaboration: Crafting the Performances in Elysium (HD – 13:18)
- The Technology of 2154 (HD – 10:13)
- In Support of Story: The Visual Effects of Elysium (HD – 10:34)
- Engineering Utopia: A Society in the Sky (HD – 11:43)
In total, the extras are a combination of content that was included on the original 2013 wide-release Blu-ray, as well as the Best Buy-exclusive bonus disc (the Exoskeletons, Explosions, and the Action Choreography of Elysium piece), and also content added for the Blomkamp3 set. What’s more, the theatrical trailers are new to this 4K edition—a nice touch. While the content could be bit longer, it’s still a fine batch of features that looks a deeper into various aspects of the film’s design and production. The highlight is Engineering Utopia, which specifically features the contributions of Syd Mead and includes interview footage with him and other designers who worked on the film. Really, the only thing that’s missed here (and that could make this content even better) is an audio commentary with Blomkamp. But you do also get a Movies Anywhere digital code for the film on a paper insert, so there’s that.
Elysium is a very good science fiction action film, with strong characters, a relatable story, and excellent visual design. It’s not Blomkamp’s best film, but it is his most polished film, and it’s the one that shows the greatest potential for his future work in this genre. Sony’s previous Blu-ray releases were already quite good in terms of picture and sound quality, but this new 4K edition rises the bar just a little bit more. Ultra HD is definitely the best way to watch this film at home, and the disc is available for just $23 on Amazon right now. Fans would be crazy not to make the upgrade. Recommended.
- Bill Hunt