I finally had some time to watch Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium about a month ago (I live by the geological clock). District 9 was a smart film and I was hoping for something equally intelligent with Elysium. Unfortunately, Blomkamp turned up the action and switched off the subtlety for Elysium. That’s not to say that the film was a total loss. The post-apocalyptic labor relations (Matt Damon and his floorman, the manufacturing plant overseer, the criminal elements, and, of course, the robot police) made an interesting allegory. I thought that Matt Damon’s upbringing in the barrio might also weave in some cross-cultural angle (but, no, it was just some slightly psychodelic excuse for the white guy to be the slum hero because, you see, the world needs white guys to do the saving). Anyhow, noise entered the transmission (i.e. the message was garbled and the film turned to schlock) when the action shifted to the satellite city of Elysium and the film went downhill. A psychopathic South African secret services agent kills Jodie Foster, the ruthless and risibly one-dimensional president of Elysium (perhaps Blomkamp decided sparing Foster’s ridiculous character was an act of mercy?), dons an exoskeloton so he can take on Damon, and gives the audience its box of popcorn-worth of mindless violence and corny lines (all with an attractive South African accent, so that’s okay!). The white guy dies, saving everyone (freeing them from the tyranny of exclusive access to health care) by doing so, but not before making the audience suffer a saccharine overdose. Lucky those boxes of popcorn are empty!
The inspiration behind this post is not to write a scathing review of Elysium, but to point out a fascinating little observation about the design of Elysium in the film. Elysium, I should point out, is like Monoco in space, a little orbital habitat for the wealthy 1% — the ruling class — so they don’t have to live on earth with the rest of the plebs. What is interesting is that it appears Elysium was based on Donald Davis’ paintings of the “Stanford Torus,” a NASA designed space colony that Davis dates to 1975. I know of the image from Robert Sheckley’s book, Futuropolis.
This is the image is from Sheckley’s book:
Here is an image of Elysium from the film:
And here is an image from Donald Davis’ website: