Monday, 17 June 2013

Trailer Trashing: Elysium

Let's take a look at the extended trailer to Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to his surprise hit District 9 called Elysium.

First impressions...

I had no idea Blomkamp would build a film around an apartheid metaphor. Really, I'm utterly gobsmacked.

Okay, I'm being sarcastic. The whole thing is like a rehash of District 9 but with poor people and robots instead of aliens, and the whole world turned into one big Soweto because the rich people seem to want it like that for some reason.

I'm also a little iffy on the social and economic mechanics of the year 2154. All the rich people live off the planet in Elysium because the planet's resources are all spent. There they live in luxury with technology that's near magical by the standards of the people below. 

Now Elysium can only survive in two ways for the movie's plot to be possible. 

1. They leech the few remaining resources from the planet below, and use advanced military technology to keep the oppressed masses from rising up and turning off the tap. However, if they push that too far, they could end up destroying what they need to stay alive. It doesn't matter how much cash you have when there's no food at all to buy.


2. Elysium is a completely self-contained uses their super-advanced technology to create a completely self-sustaining eco-system. However, since it's so much nicer up their it's constantly facing attempts to infiltrate it by the poor and the desperate, though exactly what they'll do when they get there seems to be a mystery, since any contact with the residents will result in either their return to Earth or their death.

Then there's the other question.

How do the rich support their lifestyles on Elysium?

Everyone on the planet is portrayed as living in Third  World conditions where even if you have a skilled trade, you have to live in shitty slums swimming in garbage.

Who is making the Elysians rich?

People are wearing rags and living in ruins, it is stated that the entire planet is one big ghetto with no resources. Illnesses that can be cured on Elysium in minutes are death sentences on the surface. So how are the people on Elysium able to afford their luxuries and high technology?

No matter what they're going to have overhead. Either paying for the resources they get from Earth to stay alive, or, if they're self-sustaining, paying for the weapons and mercenaries needed to keep the great unwashed from the gates.

The people of Elysium also just can't sit on a pile of money. They need a steady income to support themselves and Elysium.

It's in Elysium's best interests to use their advanced technology to make life on the planet better. The better off things are on the surface, the cheaper it will be to get resources off planet, and also cut down on the number of illegal immigrants trying to get into their station, and the mercenaries and weapons needed to keep them out.

And the cherry on top is that if they get the planet's economy working again, they can use that to make themselves even richer and not have to worry about Jodie Foster tossing them out an airlock when they can't pay the rent or having cyborg-modified Matt Damons causing explosions and property damage.

So if there was some actual knowledge of how economics work both Matt Damon's character, and the cute kid he has to save would only be meeting in the waiting room at the clinic for their 5 minute medical treatment.

But it the premise had some real economics in it, there wouldn't be a movie.


  1. Blast Hardcheese18/6/13 10:15 am

    I dunno why this director gets such a pass from the science fiction fans.

    Your points remind me of 'District 9' when the eeeevil military-industrial superdupermegacorp going on and on about trying to reverse engineer the aliens' weapons technology.

    Um...what about that multi-million-ton alien ship floating like a soap bubble over a major metropolitan center? What's making it float? Whats *powering* it? (And oh yeah, is it going to run out of fuel?)

    Figure those things out, and you will change humanity forever.

    But that would be smart science fiction, and require thought. Not some warmed-over apartheid allegory that boils down to 'racism is bad, mmmmkay?'

  2. Dirty McDingus Sez:
    District Spaaaaaeece~~~
    Seriously this dude got a hard on for apartheid~ it's if he dreams of the glory days when he could lament its existence freely with peers to shower him w/ praise for his bravery to put down da white MAN!
    Anywhos.. that station's Pretty darn Big to not be in a Lagrange point. but of course thematically, it's there to look down on all them poor folk~
    'Mobile Suit Gundam' w/ its over-sized walking machines where more realistic than this tired trope! Dude; they had dozens of 80 MILE long colonies at all FIVE Lagrange points.

  3. The plot of this film reminds me of an old Star Trek episode called City in the Clouds. Very similar, with the cloud city and its populace living in luxury and pursuing education/ arts. Down on the ground the remaining humans toiled in misery and were persecuted until Kirk and Spock changed things.