Elysium feels like a parable, plays like a sci-fi, and features a
As in other recent futuristic films, the future looks rather bleak.
Planet Earth is blighted by overpopulation, pollution, and global
warming, resulting in greater scarcity of resources and more marginalized
So what do the rich and comfortable do?
Why, they do as they have always done:
they flee to nicer accommodations.
In the ultimate “Why should we care about the hoi polloi,
anyway?”, the well-heeled heels have built themselves a space station,
where it’s Pleasant Valley Sunday every day, and you don’t even need the
riff-riff around for servants and other servile occupations, because we have
robots for those. Their biggest
problem is controlling the resourcefulness of would-be illegal immigrants,
who would befoul their pristine environment with random DNA already judged
to be inferior. (The Nazis were
historically more inclusive than this:
Hitler was actually an Austrian.)
The Prima Donna of Immigration Control, Delacourt (Jodie Foster) uses
off-the-record strong-arm tactics to pursue the relentless illegals, though
the politically-correct but inept President Patel has publicly chastised her
for it. No matter; she would
later usurp control from him, anyway: it’s
Homeland Security trumping democracy because of the perceived threat of
random terrorists. (One
discussion question would be, “How much has this happened here
Matt Damon plays Max, a play-by-the-rules guy, working on the robot
assembly line, when he’s accidentally infused with deadly radiation, and
callously told by the scanning computer that he has five days to live.
Max also knows a nurse whose child has terminal leukemia, and her
efforts to find treatment for her daughter go for naught, because, you see,
all the expensive medical equipment resides in Elysium.
They have machines there that can instantly diagnose, and then
rapidly “fix” any medical problem by re-arranging molecules, swiftly and
painlessly. What a wonderful
world that would be, right? Except
that lifespan longevity is apparently one of the root causes of
medical technology, while tremendously advanced, has become the exclusive
commodity of the rich. (Another discussion question:
how fast are we headed for that now?)
Max’s rebel-friends manage to make him some robot-appendages that
increase his strength and endurance, but still, without a true cure, he’s
dying, anyway. So it’s a race
against the clock, and against a creepy creeping social stratification
that’s enough to send us all back to Karl Marx for instructions on how to
prevent this deadly dead-end elitism.
True, making scarce resources available to more and more folks would
definitely affect the instant accessibility currently enjoyed by the
fortunate rich. In the end,
“Elysium” is not about advanced technology so much as it is allocation
of scarce resources. It’s a
question none of us really wants to seriously address.
But it’s not a far stretch to imagine that without any systematic
solution, what we will get is something chillingly close to Elysium.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St.
Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,