The art of predicting the future is one that has met with more inconclusive results. Think back to the 1960’s in which something like The Jetsons thought that we would use technology for everything from putting on our clothes to grooming ourselves. Though quite unnecessary when you get down to it’s purpose of robotics, The Jetsons was a celebration on the dreams of progress. We were lucky to have this show growing up as it was a rare glimpse into a happy future. The weight of a bleak and terrifying impending time was far heavier then the golden circus of the cartoons.
Oblivion showed an Earth that had been taken over by an alien race. After Earth showed the same world ravaged by environmental impact (but aliens as well). There are hundreds of movies that go into a dystopian future. As children, we are told to think big for a bright future, but most fictional stories deals with a darker future. Why is that? I think it’s because most of us are dissatisfied with the progress of mankind. We had hoped to experience an amazing era where we don’t have to worry about something. Our culture changes, but people remain with elements of greed and obsession with power. We can add Elysium in the pile of dystopian cinema.
The year is 2154. There is a total separation of class. The wealthiest live on a space station called Elysium that is like heaven, where there is no sickness and everyone is happy. The rest live on Earth, which has become overpopulated and ruined by decay and pollution. The poor dream of making it to Elysium, so much that illegal space ships often attempt to bring these people there, only to be sent back by robots that are basically boarder patrol. So in this universe, you’re living in Heaven or Hell.
Working in one of the robot factories is Max Costa (played by Matt Damon). He’s been looking to get to Elysium ever since he was an orphan, but has had a record of prison for gang warfare. An accident at work causes him to be exposed to radiation. He is given only five days to live. With nothing to loose, Max confronts an old friend in a gang to give him a ticket to space. They give him an exoskeleton to help him in his weakened condition, and ask him to track his companies’ CEO John Carlyle (played by William Fichtner) for some information. After a bloody coup, Max ends up with information that could change the policies of Elysium, taking it out of the hands of Jessica Delacourt (played by Jodie Foster)
After the amazingly creative District 9, Elysium is a giant step back for director Neill Blomkamp. The idea of the total separation of class is nothing new (best example being Metropolis). What is original here is the design. Blomkamp knows how to bring the crappiest of environments to life. Los Angeles looks awful, looking like the slums of a bad Mexican city while Elysium looks like the world’s creepiest country club. I’m not sure I would want to live in either place.
I’m guessing that was intentional, because there really isn’t much of a subtext here. It’s your basic battle of the classes. While I will phrase the visuals, design, and decent action, Elysium had me asking more questions then anything. Does the USA government still function? Are the other countries in a desolate state? Just what do the people in Elysium do all day? Plus, they make it clear that illegal immigrants keep on trying to get to Elysium, but given that their bodies need a code to be classified as citizens, what do they expect when their caught. Even up there, those escapees are still broke as dirt and wont be able to afford anything.
I’ll give this two and a half images of the Elysium space station out of five. I think that the biggest disappointment of Elysium is that keeps it’s intentions too simplistic for it own design. And even then, not many questions on how this universe are answered. It doesn’t even seem like much of this was thought through.