Neill Blomkamp’s (District 9) second feature-length film delves into a futuristic society where there are two classes of humans. Those who live in a ruined and overpopulated dystopia on Earth and those who comfortably live in the space satellite Elysium. Elysium is home to the wealthy elite. The satellite hovers outside the planet. In this society the citizens have medical bays where in minutes their health ailments are instantly cured. Meanwhile on Earth, people struggle to cope with the dilapidated planet.
The film tries to parallel these two factions with the current decries of the “1% and the 99%” and the current debate over illegal immigration. Defense Secretary Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster) is a ruthless political figure. It is her duty to prevent unwanted ships from docking the satellite. Max (Matt Damon) is a “regular guy” working on an assembly line making robots. One day he is trapped in the containment area and is exposed to radiation. He is told that he only has five days to live. Max decides he must go to Elysium and cure himself.
I should note that I was hesitant to watch this film. I wondered if I wanted to watch a film with such expressive, liberal undertones. I figured the film would depict the wealthy elite as uncaring and brutal individuals. While I wasn’t wrong in my assessment I must state that I surprisingly enjoyed watching the film.
I thought the film was entertaining. There were some action sequences that were visually spectacular. The plot isn’t terribly original and pretty basic. However, that doesn’t deter the fact that I liked Elysium. Kruger (Sharlto Copley) is a mercenary deployed by Foster to capture Max and bring him to her because he has transferred sensitive information into his brain (this is of course possible in the future). Kruger is a sadistic and sword–wielding psycho who is worthy of being the main antagonist (unlike Viper in The Wolverine).
My problem with the film is the director’s portrayal of all wealthy individuals who aren’t empathetic of the plight of those living on Earth. I find it hard to believe that not one citizen of Elysium cares for those living on Earth. To overall depict the wealthy 1% as nonchalant and elitist is a misnomer of reality. I am disappointed Blomkamp does not explore the sociological reasoning for such a disparity. The viewer never does understand why the elite refuse to cure those suffering on Earth. Are precious resources consumed by the medical bays with each treatment? If not, why can’t they help those suffering?
In a junket interview for this film the director was asked if the film reveals how he envisions Earth to look in 140 years, Blomkamp replied: “No, no, no. This isn’t science fiction. This is today. This is now.” Blomkamp should pick up a copy of last year’s Forbes issue which highlighted the many philanthropic millionaires and billionaires of our world. There are many of wealthy individuals who are truly empathetic to the world’s plights.
I should also stress that this is not a film appropriate for children. The film’s R rating is warranted for many violent sequences, including grotesque images of bodies blown up. Elysium is a good addition to this year’s summer box office. If you like action/science fiction movies then this is a suitable film for you. While certainly not the best film I have seen this year (that distinction belongs to Fruitvale Station) it certainly is worth a look at the theater.
My Grade: B
Are you going to watch the movie?
Twitter: @adrakontaidis & @talkrealdebate