Four years ago District 9 hit theaters, heralding the arrival of a new voice in contemporary science fiction. Writer-director Neill Blomkamp’s alien-invasion film impressed visually, portraying a gritty, realistic world that seamlessly blended humans and digital creations. More importantly, it carried on in some of the best traditions of the genre by serving as intriguing social commentary without stepping on a soapbox — and earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay in the process.

Blomkamp has now returned with his sophomore effort, the Matt Damon vehicle Elysium. With a bigger budget and broader scope, the film portrays a futuristic world where the chasm between classes is the divide between space and Earth itself. In its rush towards sci-fi action spectacle, however, it commits the same mistake as its wealthy space dwellers: forgetting about the human characters that make the whole thing possible in the first place.