The Conversation

'Elysium': smart sci-fi or dopey class-war fantasy?

I loved "District 9," the big-budget inaugural effort from Neil Blomkamp.  Some dismissed it as a heavy-handed apartheid allegory, but I admired it because it wasn't heavy-handed.  Blomkamp made the challenging decision to make the aliens stranded in Johannesburg unpleasant, dangerous, and generally difficult to get along with, instead of taking the easy standard-issue Hollywood route of making them noble and wise.  It was not difficult to see how their unfortunate segregation from the human populace came about.  The government-corporate villains were a bit convenient, but without villains there wouldn't have been much of a plot, and the end of the film leaves us wondering if the aliens' government will prove to be any more enlightened when and if they swing by to pick up their lost refugees.  

Blomkamp knows how to put every dollar of his budget up on the screen, as can be seen from the breathtaking trailer for his follow-up film, "Elysium."  But unfortunately, this one does look heavy handed - a class-war fantasy in which the One Percent have retreated to an orbital gated community, leaving the 99 Percent to rot on a ruined Earth:

I have enough residual faith in Blomkamp's storytelling skills to hope things are a little more nuanced in execution than they appear from this trailer.  He's got to be aware that the last tedious sci-fi class-war lecture, the unbearable "In Time," was a box-office disaster.  But taking what we see in the trailer on its merits: what about this situation would require the people left on Earth to live in squalor and chaos?  What would the residents of Elysium gain by enforcing such a condition, given that they have a vast supply of robot labor, and technology that can cure cancer in a matter of moments?

By the way, Matt Damon's house in Miami Beach is on the market.  It's a 12,705-square foot Mediterranean mansion - seven bedrooms, plus a two-bedroom guest house - that he's hoping to sell for $20 million, turning a cool $5 million profit.  He's already bought a new home in Los Angeles down the street from his buddy Ben Affleck for $15 million.  Are people going to plunk down $50 for tickets and snacks to hear a two-hour class-warfare lecture from a guy who currently owns two $15 million mansions?


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