Neil Blomkamp’s “Elysium” is somewhat of a novelty these days: A science fiction film that has something not only to say about where we are as a species, but where we are going. Though, before I begin, I need to get something off my chest.
Some critics, who actually get paid for their work, have alluded to the more moralistic aspects of Blomkamp’s films (such as disparities between rich and poor) almost as if to pay attention to such things is a failing on the part of the director.
Though what’s more interesting to me is not Blomkamp’s use of such devices to drive his stories, but the attention paid to them, as if it were somehow intrinsically bad to even acknowledge such things.
His heroes and villains are poor not because of some sort of failing that’s part of them, rather than a game that we all play that’s rigged from the start.
Like in the real world for many, many people.
Mild spoilers below.
Max (Matt Damon), a resident of a future Los Angeles devastated by poverty, works a factory that builds the very robots used to keep order in the city and elsewhere.
The irony of his work will probably not be lost on viewers.
Max ends up poisoned by a dose of radiation at work high enough to kill him in five days. Abandoned by the company that caused has aliment, he falls in with criminals in an effort to reach Elysium – because they control technology that can heal virtually any ill.
Technology which they covetously protect.
One of the criminals that Max connects with, Spider (Wagner Moura), happens to be a past acquaintance. They decide to kidnap John Carlyle (William Fichtner) the owner of the robotics company where Max was poisoned, for the secrets that he holds.
What Max and Spider don’t know is that Carlyle has an important connection to Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) who’s tasked with defending Elysium.
A secret that she will kill to protect.
Seeking his return, she employs a mysterious operative, Kruger (Sharito Copley), to retrieve him.
The groundwork, who the main characters are, as well as their motivations, are laid out in the first half of the film, though Blomkamp doesn’t spend much time explaining how and why things happen as events careen out of control, carrying Max closer to Elysium, and his destiny.
The future evoked in “Elysium” isn’t clean, as pat as that in other films, but it’s one that most of us can easily relate to because – other than the addition of robots and certain weapons – it’s essentially like the world we live in today.
Though more importantly, it’s a future where one can fight to make things better, and where a small child can dream about the future, reaching for an orbiting dream called Elysium.