Elysium is a motion picture which skates past the most important issues of our time after exploiting them to bring audiences in.
It deals with the distribution of wealth and power, access to health care and the future of Earth's environment, but heads directly towards the worn arena of blazing weapons and explosions to become safely irrelevant.
There are fragments of a better movie scattered throughout this motion picture which indicates that someone intended something better. The director’s previous film, District 9 dealt with racism in interesting ways.
The daughter of the female lead in the motion picture tells a story of a Hippo and Meerkat, but it's disconnected from the rest of the film. It’s likely it was connected to the better film which was gradually ground down by corporate film industry interests until its message about the brutal dangers of a society divided by wealth and the ultimate gated community degenerated into another die hard remake. There are other such fragments scattered around the film.
The message of this film should have been the same one shouted from the camps of Occupy two years ago, but it ended up with no message as all.
Despite the endless complaints of the right about liberal Hollywood, most of the big budget movies produced for mass consumption reinforce the foundational agenda of the corporate funded right. So does Elysium.
The protagonist in Elysium ends up being fitted with a mechanical Exoskeleton which gives him superhuman power. Like all of the superpowers and mutants inhabiting these conflict and explosion driven films, the resort to superpowers, vast corporate derived wealth or alien technology implicitly renders normal people impotent.
Once, in more conservative times, ironically, we regularly saw entertainment programming driven by people of ordinary powers changing the direction of their community or society. Ghandi, Babbett’s Feast and Milk are all examples. Such films have largely disappeared from the multiplex. Frank Capra's movies were far more progressive and empowering that the superhero flicks which fill the summer.
If people on Earth had challenged Elysium’s control of their society through political and social organization plenty of dramatic conflict would have been generated. There would have been issues of organizational integrity, the privacy of communication and access to resources which would have cut almost instantly to the issues we confront in our politics today. There would be agent provocateurs, conflict with government and media and a study of the way people on the bottom have challenged the people up above, which have been repeated throughout history. It would have connected directly to the things we saw in Wisconsin, North Carolina and in Occupy.
Such a film would have terrified the banks which finance our motion picture industry and the corporations which own it.
Such films aren’t going to get made with hundred million dollar budgets. It’s curious that the promotional material for this film could lead one to believe that is the sort of film this was.
It’s clear we’re going to have to tell our own stories. We’re not going to be equipped with nuclear powered Exoskeletons or powers from the Planet Krypton to do it. We’re not going to get a Starship Enterprise or an Iron Man suit either.
Nobody said the struggle for a better world was going to be easy but we need to recognize that the dramatic structure of much of what we’re seeing in pop culture ahs been crafted to make ordinary people feel powerless. That sense of powerlessness is the foundation of the control we struggle against. It cultivates apathy among the mortals.