Elysium is a violent and unsubtle sci-fi parable about the growing disparity between the very rich and the poor. It was written and directed by Neill Blomkamp, a South African who was largely responsible for the surprise 2009 hit movie District 9, a parable about Apartheid and xenophobia.
Elysium is a luxurious space station that orbits the Earth; it is a haven for the ultra-rich. (Think the Hamptons in space.) It is where the 1 percent can live isolated from the deteriorating condition on the Earth. The remaining 99 percent are stuck with, among other things: deplorable living conditions and very limited healthcare. According to Richard Corliss, writing for Time magazine (19 Aug 2013), Elysium is:
A piquant blend of two clashing political scenarios–the Occupy Wall Street notion of the 1% enslaving the 99% and the Tea Party nightmare of illegals turning American cities into Rio-style slums–the movie spends its ingenuity on contrasting its two landscapes.
The plot of the movie involves an underperforming, but macho, earthling (Matt Damon) trying to get to Elysium for healthcare. But first he must be showered with a lethal dose of radiation, given a brain implant under less the sterile conditions, stabbed, beat up a few times (although he always seems to win), and survive a spacecraft crash, all in the space of 5 days.
Jodie Foster is good as the nefarious Secretary of Defense on Elysium (but she speaks a strange mix of languages, all with bizarre accents) and Alice Braga as the heroine is very attractive, but given little to do. Braga’s role should have been enlarged and her interaction with Damon should have been enhanced. Fewer fights and more character development would have been nice. Corliss also wonders about the subplot that involves Braga’s character’s daughter: “Can’t a movie stir tension without endangering a child’s life?”
Blomkamp’s tale of a growing abyss between the superrich and everyone else needs to be explored, but with more subtlety, and with fewer blood and guts. The subplot of coup d’etat by software is interesting, but seems frustratingly underdeveloped.
An interesting side note: Elysium takes place in 2154, the same year as Avatar. Pick your poison.
Recommendation: Rent it