elysium: of machismo and martyrdom

I love District 9. I must’ve watched it dozens of times (in fact, it’s playing in the background as I’m writing this) and I love how political it is, thus resurrecting science fiction as sociopolitical commentary. That being said, its director, Neil Blomkamp, has denied that his new movie, Elysium, has some sort of political agenda.

Yeah, right.

Anyway, there are some similarities between the movies:

  1. The exosuit in District 9 and the strength enhancing suit that Matt Damon wears in Elysium. They’re both drilled into the wearer’s body. Although in Elysium‘s case, it covers a lot less.
  2. Slum areas. Probably also shot in South Africa? District 9 was shot in Soweto, but the slum area looks a lot smaller compared to the one in Elysium. It’s also probably CGI.
  3. Their sociopolitical commentary. District 9 is about apartheid and events at District Six, while Elysium is obviously about the 99% vs. 1%.
  4. Sharlto Copley, who played his characters to a fucking T in both movies. (Addendum: I watched Elysium for the second time, I think Copley overacts just a teensy bit)
  5. Both Wikus in District 9 and Max in Elysium are struck with some kind of illness that prompts them to do crazy things. I don’t know which one is more morbid, though, Wikus staying alive as a prawn or Max dying.

Elysium opens with childhood memories of little Max (grown-up Max played by buffed and tattooed Matt Damon) and his friendship with little Frey (grown-up Frey played by Alice Braga of Predators). Little Frey teaches little Max how to read in both Spanish and English. They grow attached. Little Max promises little Frey to take her “up” there to Elysium one day (SPOILER: of course he fulfills his promise).

Boys with tattoos

Boys with tattoos

Grown-up Max works at a factory called Armadyne. This factory supplies things like robots and hardware for both Earth and Elysium. Two Robots assault Max as he’s on his way to work so he has to go to the hospital where he finds Alice, now a nurse.

Jodie Foster plays Delacourt, Elysium’s secretary of defense, who zealously protects Elysium with all costs, including hiring a deranged mercenary who goes by the name Kruger (geez, that name, just like Damien, gives me goosebumps) played by Sharlto Copley. Some illegal immigrants try to get to Elysium, and Delacourt orders Kruger to shoot the ships down, destroying two out of three ships. One ship lands. An illegal woman breaks in a house to use the  to cure her daughter’s crippled legs using a special medical device that can magically solve all known disease (oh, the year is 2154). The little girl can walk again, just in time before the two of them are caught by Elysium’s security force.

Secretary of Defense

Jodie Foster as the bilingual Secretary of Defense

Delacourt’s decision causes Elysium’s president to give her the last warning (although I’m unsure if this is based on compassion or publicity, or both). She tries to raise a coup against the president by getting John Carlyle (William Fichtner) the head of Armadyne redo the coding program of Elysium, thus installing her as the president.

Apparently, things get in the way because John Carlyle never makes it back to Elysium because his flight is intercepted by Max and Earth’s team of hackers. By the way, Max now only has five days to live because of fatal radiation exposure, and so he tries to get to Elysium and use the device to get healed. Also, it’s now revealed that Alice’s daughter is dying of leukemia and she’ll do anything she can to get her to Elysium to be healed.

You know, there are some things that don’t sit well with me.

For example, the rich people are up there in Elysium. They don’t live on the same planet or even breathe same air with the poor people down on Earth. So why don’t they just share the technology? Why don’t they just share that heal-all device that looks like a tanning bed? I mean, isn’t that why the poor people rush to Elysium? Also, apparently the Medusa tanning bed (courtesy of Versace) can change people’s looks? And it’s always a woman! Always! As if women are the only ones concerned with their looks!

The healing machine. I think. I took this photo from Facebook.

The healing machine that Frey uses for Matilda. 

Almost everything on earth is pictures as slum. However, Frey, who works as a nurse, apparently has a nice home with her own medical kit for her daughter, who likes to watch cartoons on their huge flat screen television. Seriously, that flat screen TV hit me on the head. It just looked so stark. This makes me question: so the middle class is basically what? Invisible? Do the poor people also have problems with middle/working class people and vice versa? Are there break-ins?

The coup. So, you’re telling me, that just by rebooting the system and putting in different codes that run Elysium, one can be the president? What is this? Jurassic Park?

Addendum: Also, speaking of security, when Spider’s shuttle arrived, security doesn’t make a beep. Take note: this is before all hell breaks loose and Kruger and his henchmen began taking over.

I don't know about sitting in the prime minister's chair, but I'd love to sit on those abs.

I don’t know about sitting in the prime minister’s chair, but I’d love to sit on that face those abs.

SPOILER: I’m actually fine with Delacourt not wanting to be saved by Frey when they’re locked in the same room. Her character may be underdeveloped, but not as underdeveloped as Charlize Theron’s Meredith Vickers (Prometheus).

Finally: machismo and martyrdom.

Kruger is so pissed with Max. In fact he’s so pissed that he wants to kill Max. This is a case of a jilted lover (maybe he’s jealous of the bromance between Max and Julio [played by the gorgeous Diego Luna]?). I don’t know why he’s so angry, though. Because Max destroys his face (which is really gore and cool at the same time)? Or just an act of inexplicable machismo?

Addendum: so I realized that Kruger was possibly trying to stage his own coup?

Badass Sharlto Copley

Badass Sharlto Copley

And as for martyrdom, I should’ve explained this earlier. When the Armadyne guy reprogrammed Elysium, he downloaded the codes into his brain using the option “Lethal”, so in case it’s downloaded without his permission (I don’t know, I don’t really get how this works), the data thief dies. Max doesn’t know this when he uploads the data into his brain. When the time comes to reprogram Elysium (so that everyone, and I mean everyone, even the poorest of the poor on Earth can be citizens of Elysium and thus get access to apparently hundreds of those medical tanning bed units), he has to die. He does so anyway just in time so that the illegals currently on Elysium don’t get arrested and Frey’s daughter can be cured (she breaks into one of the houses to use the device).

I just think there has to be a greater motive of breaking into Elysium than just to borrow the healing device. Okay, let me rephrase that, since I know desperation can cause people to do things. What I’m trying to say is that, I find it hard to believe that the people on Elysium really don’t care about sending some medical droids and machines down to Earth. I mean, they have androids that control the situation on Earth. I’m sure placing healing machines on Earth will solve problems of illegals trying to break into their place.

Oh God, I hope I don’t sound like one of those 1% snobs, because seriously, that’s what I took from the movie’s premise.


4 thoughts on “elysium: of machismo and martyrdom

  1. Wow, you hit the nail on the head with this synopsis. I had the same questions after leaving the film. I, too, was a huge District 9 fan, and loved the development of Shartlo in the movie. But Damon’s character was basically given the same plot structure (good intentioned, to becoming slightly toxic, until finally they are full blown pariahs attempting for atonement). But holy shit, Damon was such a flat character. J. Foster was the worst antagonist, without a single ounce of human compassion. As far as I was told, this wasn’t a dystopia where people lost empathy in their genetic make up. Also, Shartlo’s showdown was cool, and needed. But as you said, where was the real motive? I know he wanted to be president somehow after JF died, but pretty impractical. Lastly, how dumb is Jodie Foster to walk into that stab wound?

    To answer your question: The movie was shot in Mexico City’s largest garbage wasteland.

    Great read. Thanks!

    • Yes! The showdown is awesome, and I love how there are sakura trees in the industrial looking place. Love the attention to detail. And I agree, Jodie Foster’s character is so antagonistic that even when she claims she’s only doing her job to protect her daughter, it’s not believable.

      Thanks for reading (and for answering the “trivia”) and you’re welcome any time!

  2. nodding at every paragraph.

    the more i think about this movie, the more questions i have in my head. the story is too simplistic. which makes it even more disappointing since District 9 (and the sociopolitical commentary in it) was fantastic.

    love the droids though! and the facial reconstruction scene, haha (it freaked me out but i could not stop watching it. so scary but so cool.)

spew on me

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