Sony Pictures’ Elysium (2013) releases to 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray on February 9, 2021. The 2-disc edition includes a 4k Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and Digital Copy, as well as multiple pieces of bonus content (including on the 4k Blu-ray). Here’s a review of the 4k Blu-ray presentation of Elysium, discussing the movie, video, audio, menu, and bonus material included.
It’s the year 2154 and the rich and elite have moved off a ravaged earth into a “safe” and exclusive world in space known as Elysium. Matt Damon plays Max, a former member of a crime organization who, after spending three years in jail, goes clean working for a weapons and robot production facility owned by a company called Armadyne. The ironic thing is Max helps build the same robots that oppress him and the rest of the world’s human population.
The setting on Earth looks a lot like the movie District 9 (which isn’t a coincidence since both films were written and directed by Neill Blomkamp), except rather than Johannesburg Elysium is centered in a dusty and overpopulated Los Angeles that looks completely different than Philip K. Dick’s vision of LA as seen in both Blade Runner movies.
2x-Oscar winner Jodie Foster stars as Delacourt, the serving Defense Secretary of Elysium who stops at no cost to protect it from anyone who attempts to enter the space habitat without proper credentials. Diego Luna (Narcos: Mexico, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) plays the role of the gang leader who turns out to be a bit of a revolutionary in a cyber-Che Guevara sort of way. And, Sharlto Copley (District 9, Chappie), is a mercenary directed by Delacourt to enforce the security of Elysium on Earth.
Elysium on 4k Blu-ray is presented at 2160p with HDR10 High Dynamic Range. The 4k Blu-ray pushed 2160p/24fps at an average of 64Mbps while the 1080p/24p Blu-ray played at an average of about 24mbps. Both disc presentations are impressive, with source material coming from a Red Epic camera system and mastered in 4k (although other cameras and formats contributed to the footage including a Canon EOS 5D Mark II at 1080p/24).
The production quality is also very good, which shouldn’t be a surprise given this was a $115M movie from Sony Pictures. Special effects, such as when Max blasts apart a robot security guard were done live in camera, resulting in realistic action. Miniature set design also keeps this film from looking like cheap CG, as demonstrated when a ship from Earth crashes on the prestine lawns of Elysium. And on the Visual Effects side, the Elysium space habitate itself renders nicely on a 4k TV, set in space against a black background with the Earth down below that creates a vivid and cinematic image.
Compared to the Blu-ray (both discs viewed on a Samsung 4k HDR TV set to Film Mode), the UHD BD provides slightly more sharpness and color depth, as well as more contrast to the overall image. Take for instance the shot of Manuel (Adrian Holmes) when he first notices Kruger’s ship coming their way. There is a bit more sharpness to his beard, color in his skin, and overall contrast from the 4k source, making the Blu-ray look washed out in comparison. Keep in mind that most TVs can be tweaked to add contrast and color saturation. And, truth is the 1080p image could be made to look even better than the 4k image in terms of color and contrast. The sharpness, however, is not easy to fake. A 4k Blu-ray provides 4x the level of resolution of a 2k image, and even though upscaling can work wonders image quality always come back to the source material.
The audio on Elysium is provided in English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (also on the original Blu-ray release) and subtitles are offered in English SDH, French, and Spanish. The bitrate of the Atmos/TrueHD track on the UHD BD (avg. 4.9Mbps) played slightly higher than the DTS-HD Master Audio track (2.9Mbps) on the 1080p BD.
The Atmos improvement over the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack isn’t as evident as other upgrades from 5.1 and lower audio formats to object-based Atmos. There are a few moments when Atmos noticeably kicks in, but really the best part of this soundtrack can be found in the fight scenes — notably when the mercenary Kruger hijacks Spider’s plan to download data from John Carlyle on Earth, and when Max faces Kruger “mano a mano” on Elysium.
There’s been some talk about how movie enthusiasts miss the DVD “menus” that were almost an artform of the past, but Elysium on 4k Blu-ray brings a bit of the fun back with several selections plus the ability to jump to featurettes right from the home screen. I sort of miss the moving video clips that were once part of Blu-ray menus, as most studios are just using still images. It’s worth mentioning there is a commercial for Sony’s PS5 upon startup that you can skip over but nevertheless will be the first thing you see when inserting the disc. We’re not sure if this is just on screener copies or all first run discs produced.
There are several featurettes on the 4k Blu-ray which is nice considering not many UHD BDs offer extras in 4k. The first bonus talks about how Director/Writer Neill Blomkamp tried to shoot as much as the action as possible without relying on special effects. The second extra spends quite a bit of time describing the “Hulk Suit” that Matt Damon wears, as well as shooting locations and the big shootout after the capture of Armadyne CEO John Carlyle (William Fichtner). There’s also production footage of the final battle between Max and Kruger (Sharlto Copley) shot on blue screen, and the amount of preparation for the fight scenes with both the actors and stunt men.
If you like movie production, there’s a whole featurette titled “The Art of Elysium Miniatures” discussing how scaled sets were used to keep this movie as “real” as possible. Director Neill Blomkamp talks about how nature is complex to reproduce digitally, at least at the time of making the film, so mini sets were used to capture every blade of grass and other natural phenenomem that would otherwise take hours of computer processing time.
The last featurette on the 4k Blu-ray (although there are many more on the 1080p Blu-ray Disc) gives viewers an inside look at how the film crew transformed a supposed 2154 Bugatti (ouch!) into a Mad Max-style cyber-vehicle. There’s also a code to redeem a digital copy through either Movies Anywhere or Vudu.
For this genre of films, Elysium is a good thriller with a decent script that looks and sounds great on 4k Blu-ray. Is Elysium as original as District 9? No, but even Blomkamp criticized his own film saying “ultimately, the story is not the right story.” If you’ve never seen Elysium, or caught it in theaters when it premiered in 2013, the 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray combo edition is the best watch the movie, offering high quality video and audio on 4k HDR TVs and Atmos/multi-channel audio systems, as well as a Digital Copy when you’re away from the home theater system.
3.5/ (it was already good on the Blu-ray)
4/5 (lots provided on the 4k BD!)