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Elysium explodes with geek- and gamer-friendly action

Jason Bourne meets Judge Dredd in Elysium, the new film from Matt Damon and District 9 director Neil Blomkamp.

Jason Bourne meets Judge Dredd in Elysium, the new film from District 9 director Neil Blomkamp, in which Matt Damon powers up to punch capitalism right in its smug moneyed face.

In 2154, the 1 per cent are a world apart from the rest of us -- literally. The rich live in a lushly landscaped and disease-free space station called Elysium, high above a ruined and blasted Earth where the poor scrape a desperate living.

Damon stars as a car thief trying to go straight when he gets caught up in the machinations of the cold-hearted elite, led by an icy Jodie Foster doing some kind of weird Margaret Thatcher voice. With an exoskeleton screwed to his bones, shaven-headed Damon sets off to punch robots and generally cause trouble for the uncaring wealthy.

Like District 9, Elysium is an action movie with something to say. The heroes are crushed under the twin dystopian boots of unfeeling business and brutally authoritarian law enforcement, with the gap between rich and poor, and their horribly unequal healthcare, strongly criticised.

But don't worry, people get their faces blown off too. Rather like science-fiction classics Robocop or Total Recall, it's somewhere between a video game -- an inventory of inventively destructive weapons and different levels of bad guys -- and a 2000AD comic. It's a sci-fi premise steeped in social commentary, but disguised by lashings of ultraviolence.

Sadly Elysium isn't quite the sum of its parts: it's too leisurely to start with, Matt Damon doesn't have the edge to really nail the anti-hero lead, and the heroes and villains are both pretty one-note. A joke or two would have been nice an' all.

But it's still a boldly made mix of grit and intelligence, set in a gorgeously realised sci-fi setting that any geek or gamer will love. It opens in the UK on 21 August, and in the US today.

Are you excited about Elysium? Which sci-fi movies succeed at mixing action with thinking? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook wall.