Film review: Dystopian class warfare in ‘Elysium’

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This past summer, the public was plastered with waves of action packed blockbuster movies. However, a good portion of these movies turned into flops (such as Disney’s “The Lone Ranger”). However, Neill Blomkamp’s “Elysium” is a visceral sci-fi hit that weaves in moral and social themes to captivate audiences in a dystopian future where class warfare is evident.

Neill Blomkamp is a rising South African director who is famously known for his Oscar-nominated film”District 9″ (2009). In that film, aliens came to live on Earth and were immediately deemed a threat to the human race and separated from humanity. The film evinced the historical issue of apartheid, but this apartheid was set between the humans and the aliens – where the aliens received the bad end of the stick. Blomkamp’s new sci-fi, “Elysium,” still exacerbates social problems that are prevalent in modern society, such as social class structure.

“Elysium”is about two polarized worlds – a deplorable Earth where the lower classes live and a man-made space station where the wealthy live and are able to be cured from any disease. Matt Damon stars as Max Da Costa, an ambitious industrial worker on Earth who is yearning to live on Elysium to make life better for him and others. After being exposed to radiation while at work and being given only five days to live, Da Costa becomes desperate to reach Elysium where he can be cured. He seeks out an underground, black market organization that has the resources and technology to get him into Elysium. However, just being given an Elysium fake ID isn’t enough to guarantee safe passage to the heaven-like space station. Elysium is a high valued place to live so there is defense program that actively scans the space between Earth and the space station in order to identify targets that are deemed a threat to the high glamorous life on the man-made ecosystem.

Da Costa’s process to gain access to Elysium is tedious and dangerous. In order to obtain an ID to Elysium, he hijacks a spacecraft carrying an arrogant, rich company owner in order to obtain the data stored in his head. However, this data not only includes access to Elysium, but also information and secret codes that can overthrow the current political power on Elysium and grant access to Elysium to everyone on the despondent Earth. Da Costa’s mission to Elysium has just become more important, not only for his life, but for the lives of others.

The film has been praised by critics and made nearly $30 million its opening weekend (well on target to pass its $115 million budget). What makes this film a critical and commercial success is the intricate weaving of spectacular visuals and moral themes. This “Great Recession” we have recently experienced has opened up debates of class warfare  because executives of failing companies were able to leave with golden parachutes, while blue collar and entry-level employees were left unemployed and struggle to find a new job in a depleting labor market. These recent historical events have piqued consumers’ interests in films that touch on themes like class warfare or the changing economic conditions of the world.

Furthermore, the special effects and technology of the time period in the film are quite innovating and allows viewers to be sucked into a futuristic, dystopian world. Overall, it is a creative action film that explicitly states the trepidations of class warfare yet ironically showcases the exciting technological innovations that we could see in our near future.