Elysium ~ A Capsule Movie Review


Elysium ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp

Elysium is a science fiction story set in the year 2154 about a dystopian earth that is diseased, polluted, and overcrowded. In the sky can faintly be seen the satellite called Elysium. It is like an enormous wheel with houses, trees, people, etc., on the scooped-out inner rim of the wheel. It is a paradisiacal “habitat” (a controlled environment) that only the very rich can escape to. It is far enough above the earth to escape the pollution but close enough to benefit from the earth’s atmosphere. Everything is beautiful and lush on Elysium. In addition to all the wonderful things about living on Elysium, they have machines there that you can recline in and be cured of any disease in a matter of seconds. There are millions of people on earth suffering and dying who could be cured of whatever ails them if only they could get to Elysium, but the thing is that the people there have a strict policy against people from earth coming there and spoiling everything. (Do I detect a metaphor here?)

Matt Damon (who I instinctively dislike for some reason) plays Max, an “everyman” who lives in the squalor on earth. He has a disgusting job in some kind of a factory, where a hateful boss is always threatening to fire him. When he is accidentally exposed to a deadly level of radiation on the job, he is administered first aid by a robot, given a bottle of pills, and sent home to die within five days. Wanting to live, he is determined to get to Elysium, where he knows he can be cured. Ever since he was a child, he has longed to go to Elysium, but now he has a reason to go. He makes a deal with a man named Spider (you can’t understand anything he says) to have himself rigged up with an exoskeleton that is somehow wired into his nervous system. This will allow him to steal vital information, including passwords and codes for Elysium, from a prissy executive visiting earth who has all the information “downloaded” into his brain. Having this information will allow Spider and others to control Elysium, or to do whatever they want to do with it. First they must disable the aircraft the executive is using to fly back to Elysium from earth and kidnap him to steal the information. The executive is killed in the ensuing gunfire, but Max is able to retrieve the information he needs. All does not go smoothly, however.

There is a subplot on Elysium involving the ambitious secretary of defense (played by Jodie Foster with a strange accent), who doesn’t like the president and is plotting a coup to depose him and become president herself. (She is the archetypical hateful female administrator that we have all known at one time or another.) She uses a strange man named Kruger (another nearly incomprehensible accent) to do her dirty deeds for her back on earth. Max, meanwhile, has reconnected with a childhood friend, a girl named Frey. It seems they used to dream together about going to Elysium. She taught Max to read when they were children and helped to open his eyes to the world. Max hasn’t seen Frey for many years. She is now a nurse and has a daughter who is ill and dying from a disease from which she could easily be cured in a matter of seconds if only they could get her to Elysium.

Neill Blomkamp wrote and directed Elysium. He also directed and co-wrote the sci-fi classic District 9 a few years ago. While Elysium isn’t, for my money, as original and compelling as District 9, it is definitely worth the time and effort to see it. To me, the most interesting element is the giant wheel in the sky where rich people go to get away from the dystopian earth. I’d like to see an entire movie about that. Of course, it’s always going to be a story of those who “have” against those who “have not.”

Copyright © 2013 by Allen Kopp

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