Movies: Elysium

An over-plotted entry in the sci-fi-as-social-commentary niche in which all rich people are assholes simply because they live well. Or something like that.

In this version of the future all of Earth has become, I dunno, Mexico or something (they speak Spanish and English anyway) and the rich people have moved off world to the fabricated Elysium, which is like some mix of Beverly Hills and upper crust Europe (they speak really nasal, clipped English and French). In Elysium everyone has mansions and people have beds that can heal things like leukemia. Being a citizen of Elysium means you are automatically an asshole because you have all these nice things and won't share them with the people stuck back on Earth. Or that's the gist I got from the movie.

The worst of the people in Elysium is Delacourt, head of defense, played by a very blonde Jodie Foster.  I get the feeling they made her so white for a reason . . . She is willing to go around, under, and through the law in order to "protect" the citizens of Elysium from the riffraff that is constantly attempting to breach its borders. (You know, like the U.S. and Mexico.) The movie isn't at all subtle; it would rather beat viewers over the head with its agenda.

Look, I have issues with our system and am invested in the idea that those who have should help those who don't. But this is a very one-sided story. Not explained: Whether Elysium has any citizenship process. Do you have to meet a certain income level to even visit? Can you petition for health care or other forms of aid? Who even paid to have it built? WTF?

I'd also like to see more than just a glimpse of how people live on Elysium. There was a party with robot servants. Um . . . Is that what everyone does? Every day? Does everyone on Elysium believe they are entitled to the lifestyle they lead, or are some working to enlighten their fellow citizens about the plight of Earth and the people still there? You see what I mean—I would have liked more balance.

But Elysium is an agenda- and plot-driven film, so balance would not have served the story. The movie centers on Max (Matt Damon), a rehabilitated criminal trying to hold down a factory job until the day the job does him wrong by first forcing him into a dangerous work situation then sending him off to die when he's exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. As we learn in so many films like this one, a person with nothing to lose is the best fighter in the world. Max is determined to get to Elysium so he can be healed, but to do so he must go back to the underworld kingpin for whom he used to work. The story goes on and on, and somewhere around 1 hour and 20 minutes I literally shouted, "This movie is ridiculous!" Because it really just piles on every narrative cliché and twist, all while continuing to drive its precious point home. Which in the end is [spoiler alert, though not really]: We are all citizens. We all matter. We all belong.

Since this is not something I did not already know and believe, Elysium is only preaching to the choir here. (And I doubt many conservatives either bothered to watch or, if they did, got the point, so . . .) One could argue President Patel was more moderate, though compared to Foster's Delacourt that's pretty much a given. Elysium's alternate title might have been Fifty Shades of Entitlement, but whatever. By the time it was coming to the final fights and utterly predictable dénouement, I was saying, "I just want to get this over with already." Which is a bad sign for any movie. Because entertainment comes first, or should. When you make your message the priority, your movie becomes a lecture. And popcorn and lectures don't mix.

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