Last night, I went to go see Neill Blomkamp’s latest film, Elysium (2013). For those who don’t know, it is a science fiction film about a divide between the rich who live in the splendorous Elysium, a space station near earth. While, everyone else is trapped down on a ravaged Earth. With that monetary divide comes a divide in healthcare and this is what the majority of the film focuses on. For the citizens of Elysium, disease is a non issue as they have machines that can heal you. On Earth, health care is much as it is today where there is no way to just heal someone. The story follows Max (Matt Damon), an ex-con who is determined to get to Elysium.
Ultimately, I liked the film. It touched upon many great aspects of society. Not only did it speak of its condemnation of certain aspects of society, it held my attention. Not once did I feel like I wanted the movie to be over or thought of how far in it was. I can’t say that it is my favorite movie, but it was much better than some of the other things I’ve seen.
There will be spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.
There is no denying that Elysium is an action film. This could be to the films advantage or detriment, I still haven’t been able to decide. As an action film, it kept the action going. The stakes were high and ever increasing. In fact, the stakes kept increasing so much it is one thing that started to become irritating. Even if it was a bit annoying, the complications Max encounters are compellingly worked out.
As an action film there are certain things that you come to expect. One of these things are moments of humor to balance out the intense action. For the most part, Elysium was devoid of these moments. I’m not saying they aren’t there, but they are few and far between and not uproar inducing moments. I appreciated this deviation from humor and did not miss it. The few moments where it was tastefully injected felt like just enough. I didn’t come in to see a comedy, I came for an action movie. That is what I got.
As I discussed with my boyfriend, we both thought some of the character’s motives were unclear. We worked out the reasoning for some of the characters, but other’s were still in the air. Delacourt (Jodie Foster) was a pain. She was a bitch. She wanted control over Elysium, full control. Her methods of doing this were underhanded of course, but I didn’t get a good feeling of her character to understand why she wanted it so badly. I didn’t feel anything for her character in fact. No hatred, no loathing, nothing. She was a blank slate and I didn’t care enough to fill in the pieces.
On the other hand, Kruger (Sharlto Copley) was an asshole. The true villain. Aside from being distracted that the lovable Wikus was distracted, I was intrigued by Kruger. He was dirty and creepy. His violence couldn’t be rivaled by any other in the movie. He enjoyed killing others and hunting them down as though it gave him new life. His movements and tics made me hate him even if I didn’t know what was in it for him. I got the sense that having a pay off like going to Elysium didn’t matter, he just liked the thrill of battle.
As a Blomkamp film, you almost expect there to be social commentary and like District 9 (Blomkamp 2009), Elysium delivers. The one thing I didn’t like was the brushing over of some social aspects that I found to be more interesting than the main one. At the beginning of the film, Max is going to work with a backpack. A pair of police droids pull him to the side to search his bag. Max makes the mistake of making a wisecrack that the droids process as hostility and he is ordered to see his parole officer immediately. Who is the parole officer? Nothing more than another machine shaped to look like a cartoon of a human that delivers its stoic parole extension. When Max tries to explain, he is cut off. The parole officer doesn’t want to hear anything more. The parole officer isn’t there to help, just deliver punishment. It was an interesting exchange and I would have loved to see more about the droids replacing humans and their lack of emotion.
The main aspect the film focused on was the striation between the rich and everyone else. The amenities of Elysium are top notch. They have healing beds which will fix nearly any ailment from a broken leg to cancer. They are there to for people who live their lives laying out in the false atmosphere on their lush lawns and having lavish get togethers. The people of Elysium lead carefree lives, unlike those of Earth. People still on earth live in rubble. Streets are dirt and and debris lies everywhere. It is not an enjoyable place. The people work hard live in squalor and most can never save to one day make it to Elysium. There’s no getting out. To make it worse, these are the people working menial labor jobs and getting hurt. Max is forced by his manager to go into a radiation chamber to move some palates or lose his job. When he the door shuts on him, he is trapped as he receives a lethal dose of radiation. In Elysium he could be healed with ease, but on Earth he is given medication and a death sentence of 5 days.
One other thing I noticed was the pervasiveness of Spanish. Everyone seemed to be bilingual.