On this episode of the Reel World Theology Podcast:
While it should be no surprise after District 9, Neill Blomkamp’s sophomore film, Elysium, was packed with themes of social justice and it has been met with a storm of controversy. While conservative sites lambasted the film due to its apparent support of socialized medicine and its arguments against strict immigration practices, more liberal sites welcomed a movie that actually put some of the issues that are very real in the current political conversation right out front. Our panel discusses the merits and drawbacks of being labeled as a “preachy” film, but also hit on some of the actual themes the movie explores, such as sacrifice, self-centeredness, false promise, and debate our main character, Max, as a supposed Christ figure.
Warning: Spoilers! Spoilers! Spoilers!
Download Episode 007 Here:
Reel World Theology #007 – Above Elysium
This weeks panel included Elijah Lovejoy and Mark Wingerter.
Mark Wingerter (@markdapackerfan)
Transmission & Dead on Arrival can be found at this YouTube Channel
Entries for the 48 Film Project, including Heart of the Dead, can be found here:
Greensboro 48 Hour Film Project
Let Pylons Be Pylons
Podcast Notes and Links:
Elysium at IMDB
Elysium at Rotten Tomatoes
Elysium Trailer on Youtube
Our Ticket to Elysium at Cinemagogue
Elysium Review at Reel Spirituality
Elysium: Fighting for Paradise at Empires and Mangers
Big Budget, Small Story at Patheos
Neill Blomkamp Interview at Film School Rejects
Elysium: Flawed Sci-Fi Film Displays Vision and Conscience at The Catholic World Report
Is Elysium Socialist Agitprop or Smart Sci-Fi Filmmaking at Variety
4 Reasons Conservatives Should Watch Elysium at Independent Journal Review
Elysium: Matt Damon Shoots His Way to Universal Health Care at Mother Jones
Elysium: To Build a World Is Not to Tell a Story at NPR
Trying to Spice a Recipe for Cinematic Popcorn at NY Times
I treated this like listening to NPR and was able to listen to the whole thing while working. Didn’t know you were doing a podcast – interesting discussion. I typed down notes as I was listening:
Elysium – I believe, does exactly what movies have been doing. Sure it was full of in-your-face politics such as medical care and immigration but movies pull exactly from what we experience right here right now on this planet. Many people believe that the United States of America is the center of all political debate but they don’t realize that other countries deal with immigration issues – France, South Africa, Norway, Germany, the UK, and the list goes on.
Medical care for all? Again, that spreads across the globe.
As for the movie as a movie – yes, it was executed as well as it could have been. It was absolutely beautiful. Jodie Foster looks better everytime I see her but she played the exact same character she did in Inside Man… beautiful, cold-calculating, but useless as character. But she looked great.
I haven’t seen Upside Down but that is the Kirsten Dunst movie you were trying to think about in around the 10-minute mark.
District 9 was awesome, visually and story wise. Elysium, the character development was definiitely lacking. From the woman childhood friend, to the daughter (where did she come from – who is her daddy?).
Oh, political polarity eh? Hollywood is both liberal and conservative. It just depends on who is making the movie. All ‘hollywood’ cares about is making the money. Obama care is hardly universal healthcare.
Of course the movie has social underpinnings but why shouldn’t it? I completely agree that people calling Elysium an American political agenda movie is an uneducated thing to say. South Africa has it’s own issues. Elysium wasn’t being preachy – at least no where nearly as much as – Avatar. Coudn’t be further from the truth.
As for the disparity between the director and the actors. Well, actors are often like the people that go watch the movie, they don’t always have the right ideas. They’re ACTING – they aren’t necessarily the screenwriters, driectors, or producers. Yes – Elysium is political in the sense that is what the story is about – political, economic, and social turmoil. Movies do often have messages.
It’s funny how people get offended in this country by movies with “messages”. I look back on the sad times of hollywood – Remember Black Hawk Down? This is a movie about American soldiers rescuing their own in another country. A lot of people just saw a pro-American action movie. What they failed to see – and what the makes of the film failed to show compassion for – was the unnecessary destruction of a group of people. People cheered in the theatre when entire droves of “skinnies” were mowed down on screen. I was sick in my throat – honkered down in my seat. It was sickening, I doubt many people even thought about the folly of us even being in Somalia. We were there with military force to try to stop warlords yet now we can’t even come to consensus on whether or not to stop use of chemical weapons. Sorry got off there.
Matt Damon in Elysium was an interesting choice.
Interesting point with your Star Trek connection and I believe you’re right.
Back to Elysium – ah – yeah it is cliche.
I wouldn’t say the work place injury was over the top. Yeah, the business guy – William Fitchner was definitely over the top with the bed sheets and all.
Again, Jody Foster, useless character.
Interesting point about the World View and if the rest of the world sees this they’ll consider Elysium America but honestly, intelligent people I believe recognize that there are “Elysiums” all over the globe. And the US is not necessarily the ideal Elysium. And it is funny, to my knowledge, not a single frame of this movie was filmed in the United States.
I think Los Angeles as being predominantly latin-american, well – cliche, maybe but it is probably a natural progression of things to come.
I think it is ok to show an obvious message in a film, not at the expense of story and character development but nothing wrong with being obviousl. Keep your hand up.
Interesting point that the success of District 9 gave Blomkamp freedom on Elysium. Let’s point out though that Elysium is a box office success and Blomkamp will honestly get that freedom on his next film and there will be a next film.
YOU HATED CHILDREN OF MEN!?!?! I LOVED Children of Men! There is nothing wrong with obvious waiving your hand. Why is that so bad? Heavy handed? Is it not OK to have a bleak and negative story? I think people should watch the darkside of movies more often.
A movie where the future has a positive outcome – well um… do the Back to the Future movies count? The Fifth Element was kind of positive. It wasn’t really negative in the outlook of the future. Oh, look at that – you mentioned Back to the Future! Awesome.
Did Elysium deserve the conservative/religious backlash? Absolutely yes and absolutely not. Movies are meant to be criticized. Should they be used to prove points? No because it is a movie, a story, something someone or some group thought of and put together. It is not real life, it is not history – it should not be used to prove points or govern. But people do it anyway and people have that right. Can it be used to show what life could be like in the future – definitely. And it is a future people should not look towards. Honestly though, this world – without an “event” will be unmanageably overpopulated with disease and hungar running rampant and there will be a small group of people living well above the rest.
A lot of hero’s stories do start off as a personal/selfish journey and they turn into a hero – always by choice. He did not intend to kill a bunch of people but yeah he ended up having to do something. He was willing to take the chance of flying up to Elysium and risk being blown up in the sky. They did linger to long on his selfishness but honestly that made him a very real-world character. Even when his childhood friend Frey pretty much shut him down – he didn’t want to help her daughter even though he knew he probably could.
Interesting point that the film ends by raising more issues such as now that everyone is a citizen of Elysium – how do we deal with warlords. I mean, you can read into it all kinds of ways. We can state that the robots are smart enough to recognize threats but who do they consider to be a good guy and a bad guy?
Maybe the medical beds are a product of Weyland-Yutani? 🙂
Along with the AI robots…
Now wouldn’t that be an interesting connection. *wink wink*
Yeah, Max’s character was largely wasted but he’s a real world character. Most people are going to try to preserve their own lives and the lives of their most precious loved ones (sometimes). Max is definitely the everyman in that situation where he wants to live and feels he has everything to lose (while actually not having much at all). Clive Owen’s character was pretty selfish in Children of Men – at first.
Is Max a Christ-like figure? Without needing much detail, if you know the definition of “Christ-like” – no he is not except for the sacrificial part but he wasn’t at first. Honestly – it was a situation – he’s dead if he does it and he’s dead if he doesn’t do it. Uploading the data was the best way for him to win – one could say some good came out of his death. That’s noble… ish.
“If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you’re already dead!”
One of my favorite movie quotes.
And one of you figured it out the quote.
The brain function crap and rebuilding Kruger was kind of lame and convenient – a shockwave obliterated his face – I would assume that his brain would have been turned into mush.
Upload timers are lame. Being able to change the code so easily, especially when it is supposed to be encrypted or so complex that only one man (the CEO) knew how to change it. Of course – his secret could have been that it was that easy to change. Maybe his code was done in C or C++.
string CitizenResidents = “Elysium”;
while(CR == “Elysium”)
AIControlledBy(Elysium, “President”, “Secretary of Defense”, “Armadyne CEO”)
AINotNiceTo(“Earth”); //to keep the residents of Earth from getting uppity
//from medical protocols
MostBasicMedicalCare(“Earth”); //to keep the residents of Earth alive long enough to work
The A-Team was great? Hmmmm… Copley was awesome in it but can’t say I liked The A-Team. Maybe I need to rewatch and turn my brain off. I thought I did – I guess in retrospect – I did find the tank manuevering in the air to be interesting and fun.
Kruger was the best character and actor in the entire film.
He was definitely 3-dimensional. Copley is a natural nut job.
Even in District 9 he played the role as if he was a nut job although a wussy one but it worked great.
Did you all notice the South American flag decal on the side of Kruger’s ship? That was a nice touch.
Thanks for taking 1.5 hours to talk about this movie. I wish more people would do that. THANKS! If you read this far in to my notes, thank you again!
awesome run down. i was just hoping to have a couple people point out an interesting point or two, but you have gone the extra mile, so i, of course went the extra mile on your response. i see we’d still disagree about some thing, but i think, ultimately, your point “i wish more people would do that.” is where we see eye to eye!
I meant to say that Elysium “wasn’t executed as well as it could have been” that’s really the only correction I feel I need to make. Everything else are typos and I typed this up quickly while trying to follow along while listening.