Elysium (2013), written by Neill Blomkamp, shares the story of a peasant turned hero in a future dystopian world. If that sounds like a familiar setup that’s because it is. One film that comes to mind that uses similar beats is The Hunger Games.
- Draft Read: Undated
- Type: Spec
- Page Count: 120
- Reading Speed: Medium
- Setting(s): Las Angeles, Elysium (a space station)
- Plot Structure: Linear, Spanning multiple days
- Genre(s): Sci-Fi, Myth, Western
- Theme(s): Classism, Poverty, Technology
- Protagonist Change: Significant
Let’s look at the broader picture. Following Blomkamp’s success with District 9 (2009), he wrote Elysium. As an aside, if anyone has the District 9 script, please email it over. No one seems to have it!
Elysium has a similar feel to District 9. Technology, specifically the fight between humans and tech, plays a large part. As do themes of poverty, classism and love. In Elysium’s case, there are mythical elements, as well. How about Western beats? More on that in a bit.
The script reads well. It feels formulaic, with the inciting incident, Max getting a lethal dose of radiation and fighting to cure himself, occurring on page 28 (23% through the script).
Nothing about this screenplay is inherently spectacular. Perhaps the most compelling part is simply the concept: a floating island where the rich live in seclusion from the poor. Besides money and power, the rich have something the poor want: med-bays. The want becomes a need after the inciting incident.
It’s a linear plot that climaxes in an epic fight on a floating island. Max is then left with the decision to save himself or the world. The plot isn’t unique, but it works.
If one is trying to make a villain more evil and more merciless, look no further than Kruger. He steals the show. Unfortunately, his love of fighting and general machoness result in his downfall, just like most insane villains, but nonetheless, he is a well-thought-out character.
As another aside, does Elysium have elements of the Western theme? Could Max be considered the hero cowboy and Kruger is the outlaw who is trying to control the town? Food for thought.
Dialogue & Pacing
I didn’t take many notes on the dialogue. There were some lines that were objectively rough. Here’s one from Kruger:
…You’ll love Elysium, feel right at home…. and you (to Matilda) you can have any pet you want. Even a parrot.
A formatting note: Blomkamp used the parenthetical mid-line (probably not the right term), instead of giving it its own line. I’ve noticed this is more common in older screenplays, whereas newer ones like Air (2023) put parentheses on their own line. Personally, I think a separate line reads better, although it does add to the overall screenplay length.
The pacing was strong. The stories converged into an epic fight that decides the course of humanity.
Like many dystopian Sci-fi films, Elysium shares a moral critique of society. The film came out 10 years ago, yet has mostly faded. Why is that? Well, one reason could be the storyline, which is strong but isn’t quite on the same level as the cinematography, which was (and still is) stunning.
Best Part of The Script
- Act 1 is the strongest. Blomkamp does a great job showing misery and suffering (see the probation office scene).
- The inciting incident is worth a read (starts on Page 27).