Sci-fi film set in the 22nd century. Earth is poor and overpopulated. Rich people live on a space station called Elysium which is a materialist paradise that keeps the poor out. Matt Damon plays Max, a worker who sickens with radiation (having only five days to live) and is implanted with the exoskeleton mind of John Carlyle (William Fichtner) who runs the factory where Max works. Max is up against Delacourt (Jodie Foster) who plans a coup on Elysium with Carlyle. Max is asked to help his girlfriend Frey (Alice Boya) and her sick daughter by gaining access to Elysium’s medical cures. Max battles with Kruger (Sharlto Copley) who is Delacourt’s thug and he must infiltrate Elysium. Will there be a happy ending?
Damon plays the lead character, and the role could have gone to Tom Cruise or Will Smith, so it’s sci-fi business as usual. There is the beautiful mother with the sick child, there is slow motion lyricism, an Eastern European choir. We also get the usual futurist dystopia, which looks like a vast slum, back dropping hi-tech fights. The film is directed by Neill Blomkemp who made District 9, the Kruger character is from that film and his South African accent is almost incomprehensible. In the contrast between earth slums and Elysium, one feels that the poverty is romanticized because it is more vital and humane. There are bits of Oblivion, Zardoz, Iron Man, Island and other sci-fi films in this, so there is little that’s original though it looks great. The space station surpasses the crude plastic kits of 2001, it’s a stepforward in space. The corporate smoothies in Elysium are sleek, bland, and vile. Their main concerns are their jealously guarded privileges vis a vis the starving and oppressed masses on Earth. This makes us feel uneasy because our own attitude to immigrants can be just as selfish and xenophobic. Carlyle is a smugly arrogant and etiolated swine, he will not tolerate his employees talking directly to him because of germs. Employees are expendable and do not rate as humans. Delacourt is the super bitch who runs this gated paradise with an exhorbitant sense of entitlement where humaneness is eccentric or subversive. They are much like today’s finance capitalists. Frey is the usual Spanish-Mexican Madonna with an adorable child that we’ve seen many times since the 80s. The rugged hero is really the right man for her but he has a world to save and must die a beautiful death. This leads me to a criticism made about this film, that it assumes the world will be not much different in the future. Surely it’s understood by now that sci-fi is more an extrapolation from present social problems. Given the hectic pace of technological change, how can we envisage even the next few decades? Such criticism is facile but it does make the point that we should get away from predictable things. Elysium is District 9 with Ideal Home improvements in space. One expects more debate and ideas but it’s mostly the usual macho brutality. It could have been an effective satire on consumer capitalism, still it’s visually entrancing