‘Elysium’ doesn’t add up to much


Following up one of the best science fiction films of the 2000s, “District 9”, director Neill Blomkamp attempts to recapture what made his directorial debut so great. Blomkamp’s approach to science fiction is strongly allegorical, “District 9” was a direct metaphor for the South African Apartheid, which has a special relation to Blomkamp as he is South African. His newest film “Elysium” again tries to offer a unique social commentary, and while often glaringly obvious at times, still offers a smart, futuristic look at society and how it treats foreigners.

“Elysium” refers to a giant space station in the sky that all the rich and wealthy decided to flee to once the world began being depleted of it’s resources. The greatest thing about this floating ring in the sky is the existence of beds that can reconstruct people based on their DNA and completely heal them of any illness or injury. These beds turn into the driving force of the plot because the people who still live on earth are desperately trying to get their sick and injured to Elysium in order to heal them. The people on Elysium do not like people invading their glorified country club so they destroy any unidentified incoming aircraft.

The main conflict arises when main character Max (Matt Damon) has an accident at his blue-collar job leaving him with radiation poisoning and five days to live. Max realizes his only hope is to travel to Elysium and his only hope of doing so is to team up with a group of underground rebels who plan to hijack data from the brain of an executive currently visiting earth and use the data to make everyone on earth a citizen of Elyisum and cure the world of all sickness. The stakes are  high, and Max must act quickly. This urgency goes away pretty quickly once Max is fitted with an exoskeleton that gives him superhuman strength. There is also some tacked-on conflict about a childhood friend, Freya (Alice Braga), and his promise to take her sick daughter to Elysium.

While all of this is going on down on Earth, Elysium has its own problems involving the corrupt Delacourt (Jodie Foster), who orders three cargo craft carrying the poor to Elysium to be shot down. She is told her actions are brash and unneeded which motivates her to want to take over Elysium to preserve their way of life without any poor people. It seems she’s the only one on Elysium who actually hates poor people so it’s a mystery why they don’t just let the sick board and heal them, considering it takes a minute or so to cure cancer. Also, the film never explains why Earth doesn’t have a few healing beds of its own. After all, if there’s one in every house on Elysium, doesn’t that seem excessive considering how few people live there? Apparently all rich people are evil and want nothing more to see the poor suffer.

The whole message of this film seems so needlessly forced. It’s supposed to represent America’s current health-care system and how it some are denied access, but in the context of the film it serves no purpose other than to make it a bit smarter than an average action flick, which it barely pulls off. The action is fun and the message does make you think, but leaves you unsatisfied and a little underwhelmed. The only thing that saves the action is Kruger, played by Sharlto Copley, a government brute who works on Earth doing various brutish things like shooting down cargo ships full of poor people. The fight scenes between him and Max are well done and you really feel like they are matched in terms of prowess.

It’s hard to follow up “District 9,” but even taken out of that context and treating it as a completely different film doesn’t save Elysium. I had a hard time caring about most of the characters and Foster  seemed like she couldn’t decide on which accent to use. The message makes sense when in context to the struggles of today’s world, but when you have the technology to cure cancer in a minute and there is no limitations to how many people can use it, there is no logical reason for blowing up poor people who want to be cured. “Elysium” has good action but a shallow message that, while a cut above what most action movies say about society, it doesn’t really add up to much at all.