“Elysium,” starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, is a new science fiction action film that is opening in wide release in more than 2,700 movie theaters nationwide.
Sony’s TriStar Pictures is releasing its first big-budget offering since 1998 and is doing so in the form of a heavy-handed political propaganda flick.
The movie uses a mid-22nd century dystopian future to deliver a contrived story line in which the divide between the haves and have-nots has resulted in a worldwide banana republic.
Wealthy elitists live in a place called Elysium, which incidentally is another name for the Elysian Fields, an Ancient Greek conception of the afterlife. It is a pristine utopia housed in a massive high-tech space station, where sprawling mansions abound and medical technologies have advanced to the point that all diseases are met with an instant cure.
Those who are unfortunate enough to be located outside of the Elysium realm must endure an overpopulated, poverty stricken, crime ridden, disease-filled world positioned far below the orbiting “Valhalla” in the sky.
Residents of Elysium vigorously enforce anti-immigration laws to keep the earthbound masses from entering their immaculate biosphere.
Damon’s character suffers an accident on the job and is exposed to a potentially lethal dose of radiation. He now has five days to travel from Los Angeles to Elysium to obtain a cure. Donning the armor of an exoskeleton, he makes plans to kidnap a wealthy businessman as a means of gaining entry into Elysium.
The film is written, co-produced, and directed by Neill Blomkamp, who is also the co-writer and director of “District 9,” the 2009 sci-fi sleeper hit that snagged four Oscar nominations.
“District 9” stood out from other sci-fi cinema because of its Kafka-like surrealism. In stark contrast, however, “Elysium” features unsurprising formulaic violence and post-apocalyptic predictability.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Blomkamp’s inspiration for the story was an incident that occurred during a Mexico trip in which he had an encounter with the police and was eventually released into a poor area of the countryside outside of Tijuana. Floodlights streamed into Mexico from the U.S. side of the border, and Black Hawk helicopters patrolled the skies. “It was like science fiction on Earth,” he said.
Blomkamp’s idea of the Elysium space station reportedly came from Beverly Hills and Malibu.
The filmmaker also commented, “Everybody wants to ask me lately about my predictions for the future, whether I think this is what will happen in 140 years.” His response was emphatic. “No, no, no. This isn’t science fiction. This is today. This is now,” Blomkamp said.
Still, as was revealed in an interview with the Vulture website, Blomkamp claims that he did not consciously seek to write political issues into his script, but simply came up with the idea of a space station, a “group of people living on it that are billionaires,” and a “group of people on Earth that are destitute.”
“It’s just interesting imagery,” Blomkamp stated. “And from that, the socio-political stuff, makes the framework, and then it’s, ‘Okay, I’m going to write a script.’”
The periodical of record in the entertainment industry couldn’t help but state the truth about the film, noting its “openly socialist” political agenda.
Scott Foundas, the chief film critic for Variety, pointed out that “a more daring film might have risked putting a human (if not necessarily humane) face on the promised land’s privileged populace, but here they remain a vague, cocktail-partying blur…”
Foundas then described “Elysium” as advancing “one of the more openly socialist political agendas of any Hollywood movie in memory, beating the drum loudly not just for universal healthcare, but for open borders, unconditional amnesty and the abolition of class distinctions as well.”
“But Blomkamp never makes it clear how, if overpopulation and pollution are what got us into this mess in the first place, moving everyone up to Elysium would make for a sustainable solution; he just wants us to take it on faith that it would,” Foundas added.
Sean Smith of Entertainment Weekly summed up the underlying political themes of the film in the following manner: “If you are a member of the 1 percent, “Elysium” is a horror movie. For everyone else, it’s one step shy of a call to arms.”