Elysium January 10, 2014

I recently watched the movie Elysium. It can't decide whether it wants to primarily be an action sci-fi movie or a dystopian political commentary, and so it tries to do both. But it is the latter that makes it powerful. The movie envisages a future in which the wealthy have moved to Elysium – a space station in Earth's suburb, if you will. There they have clean air, high tech medical equipment, and a lifestyle denied to most of humanity. Most people work for that elite, and there seems to no longer be any pretense that hard work can allow literal as well as metaphorical upward mobility.

It is a future which, apart from some technological advancements, is not that different from today.

We live in a global aristocracy. And the time has come to question the state of affairs in which wealth determines whether your life will be carefully protected or treated as a disposable commodity that exists for the ultimate profit of others.

It is not surprising that some felt the movie had a socialist agenda.

The fact that a nun instills the values in young Max that lead him to where he ends up is striking. The film is not without its religious themes – even apart from the overtones of the title.


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  • With that many rich people clustered together there’s bound to be an Episcopalian church.

    I recommended downloading it illegally, to avoid creating any more nefarious Space Republicans.


  • Michael Wilson

    Elysium was one of my favorite science fiction films last year and I liked it more than the critics did. Its future world was more plausible than a lot of others, like Prometheus, being located far enough in the future to account for the level of technology and change that occurred. As far as its social commentary, someone joked that the situation in Elysium pretty much summed up life in Matt Damon’s Los Angeles. One of my what ifs for the future is the question of how will society react to medical technology that will allow for possible immortality. Since the wealthy do get access to expensive new technology first, how would people react to a world where its Donald Trumps and Kardashians can live for ever? It also raises the question, not really explored in the movie, of how the immortal rich would deal with a situation where their death is inescapable. I suspect than when old age is a curable disease, accidental death will seem infinitely more tragic as people forget the spiritual coping mechanisms of dealing with death. Another little explored angle was the degree that the world of Elysium was dominated by machines. I figure that as time goes on, humans will be less and less valuable to the providing of goods and services. Presumably this is what created the situation in the film, since who ever controls the robot soldier factories would no longer need to listen to the input of the rest of the world.

  • newenglandsun

    I liked that they had the nun being the one instilling values on Max. I also liked how his character changed from arrogant individualist to the sacrificial hero.

  • Michael Bird

    I thought the movie was really about US healthcare debates. Only the rich are entitled or allowed to get the best care, cause their ain’t enough to go around.

    • Except that there is enough to go around. And so the question is whether those currently in power will get everyone access, or whether it will take a revolution.

  • I’m not sure whether to call its agenda socialist. It’s clearly anti-elitist and immigration restrictionist, though.