Friday, 25 April 2014

Elysium


One of those movies that gets lost in the midst of a bunch of other movies. Poor planning? Bad luck? Doesn’t matter. I’m sure a lot of people watched it and their enjoyment wasn’t held down by Gravity or Carrie. As with all standard sci-fi dystopian dramas, Elysium’s scriptwriters followed the handbook like star pupils.

Location
Now, I would like to start off by thanking Elysium for pointing out how poor my listening Spanish was. Albeit better than my reading ?Korean but shameful all the same. So forgive me if I missed out on some salient points that were explained or spelled out in the subtitles. The movie is set on Earth and in Elysium; a gigantic orbiting space station which serves as a sort of second Earth for some very fortunate ?Frenchmen and women.  Most of what happens on Earth occurs in an obviously Latin American city called Los Angeles. The other 3 scenes are of random people from around the world (aka Africans) finally getting the healthcare they need… at the end.

Everyone knows a good dystopian story has to be set in L.A. at this point, the mayor needs to just give up on the PR and focus on what is the inevitable future, what with earthquakes, forest fires and Hollywood it’s only a matter of time. Movie LA is a dirty, grimy, desolate hodgepodge of abandoned  skyscrapers and makeshift structures. Imagine...sorry …copy, the building from Homeland and combine it with a typical favela from City of God, throw in some shanty towns from District 9 and voila! Everyone is Hispanic…or black, no one works in the ghetto/slum, everyone is a criminal, poverty is all around you and the urban decay is so dire, there’s borrowed rural for good measure (pig rearing? Really?)

Elysium on the other hand is Utopia. Everyone/Everything is white; save for the Indian president, 1 black person and 1 Asian, everyone is rich, no one suffers from disease or injury for more than a microwave-minute, I’m assuming no one dies and everything is just perfect, thanks to auto-pan-regeneration (aka fountain of youth). Elysium has a president and a sort of Minister of Defence (prize for best calves 2013-2014 goes to Jodie Foster) who seem not to see eye-to-eye on defence issues. They have a disagreement and this sets up the conflict that leads to the almost plot twist. There are robots at their beck and call and everything is shiny, new and wired. Like living in an I-store…I-land if you will J Basically a heaven and hell dichotomy.

Summary
Since I just watched this movie and it’s all too fresh in my mind, I’m going to force myself to give a summary lest I go off on a tangent.

Elysium is basically about a white kid who grew up in an orphanage in a Hispanic slum and ends up saving the world. He fell in love with a girl who went on to become a nurse and whose daughter develops Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL). He went on to become a car thief who got paroled and is now trying to do right, despite the constant taunting from his neighbours and friends. He works a menial job under an insensitive supervisor and this leads him to unnecessarily expose himself to radiation that will kill him in 5 days. 

 Our hero and his childhood sweetheart are now both in need of auto-pan-regeneration and need to illegally emigrate to Elysium. Meanwhile, the Minister of Defence and the President of Elysium have a tiff and she and the main supplier of robots/weapons plan a coup against him. They both die and the coup fails, however, the coup hinged on  a reprogramming of Elysium (jail breaking) and this code was lethally encrypted and stored on the weapons supplier’s brain-drive that our hero stole and even though jail-breaking Elysium allowed earthlings to download all the cool apps like free premium healthcare, he dies.

*There are also some 3 Afrikaner mercenaries who do the Minister’s dirty work and are eventually tasked with retrieving our hero and his stolen info. As if the accents weren’t enough, there’s a South African flag on their plane. I don’t even know what to make of that little bit of info they felt was so important to show, despite the fact that no other nationalities or countries were mentioned and despite being Elysium citizens, they seem to enjoy working and living on Earth and are generally worse than Earth scum.

*He also becomes a cyborg at some point, but it’s honestly quite irrelevant to the plot

Random Inconsistencies
  • ·         Everyone speaks Spanish in LA, particularly in the orphanage where our hero grew up, most people are Hispanic and yet, he grows up without the quintessential accent that every other Earthling has?

  • ·         Why don’t robots build robots. We’re in 2014 and robots have been assembling cars for decades. Is using humans in manufacturing on earth really the most cost effective method for our Big Bad Corp? The earthlings are policed by robots and automation is at dizzying heights, but jobs that are currently mechanised are being done by humans? Really?

  • ·         Is space travel so easy? Like random slum dwellers just randomly have space ships and these spacecraft seamlessly navigate from earth to space to Elysium and vice versa? And Suspended Reality lead to suspended lack of gravity?

  • ·         Is it so easy to just randomly land on Elysium and not be seen or tracked? I know bouncers who could have done a better job. That has to be the most porous security system ever conceived.

  • ·         So, I can store data from my PC/Mac (I had to say it) on my USB enabled brain but I can’t email it? I can’t upload to a cloud? So if someone wants to steal it, they can do so willy nilly and I won’t even be able to put up a fight, but will be comforted by the fact that they will die?

  • ·         ONE PERSON CAN RE-SET ELYSIUM? ONE? SERIOUSLY?!!?!?!?!?

  • ·         How can you see everything and not see anything at the same time?

  • ·         Everyone knows what a reboot sequence looks like… and it’s still in MS-DOS. How is rebooting the system tantamount to every living person becoming a citizen? Why would the over-reaching evil Elysium coup planners design this?

  • ·         How did Elysium come about? Why is Earth poor? And if the first order of business of new Elysium was to send out auto-regenerator ambulances to new Elysites on Earth, what the hell were doing just lying about in storage? Every home has one. Elysites rarely go to earth, there’s no crime, no disasters, essentially, Elysium could have provided medical aid to Earthlings but chose not to. Within this inconsistency, is yet another one. Where were these ambulances when a high ranking Elysite was dying on earth?

  • ·         Not everyone is dirt poor on Earth and not everyone lives a slum, so where are the middle class people? (remember the supervisor and the un named person with 5 cars) don’t they want to move to Elysium too? Or they have visas…so they can go whenever


In the end, Elysium is chock full of racial and social stereotypes, it was a pain to watch and failed to end with a lesson as is expected of a dystopian effort. At best, it attempts to show why people should be allowed to immigrate freely, and that all poor people want is health care, so sporadic medical outreaches from have-states/nations/ to have-not states is to be encouraged as our humane responsibility. There is no fathomable reason behind poverty; it just exists and hence can’t be ameliorated. Poor people are lazy criminals (children not exempted). We are also yet to find “a cure” for compound fractures and ALL. Rather than challenge current views and practices, all it does is draw over simplified parallels between our present day “countries of the advanced world” and “countries of the poor, developing world) and propagate misconceptions.

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