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Elysium: A film fraught with dangerous work conditions and failed political metaphors

Posted: August 5, 2013 |   Comments

( The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy shouldn't be surprised that director Neil Blomkamp's "latest politically tinged sci-fi feature" falls apart during the third act. So did Blomkamp's first politically tinged sci-fi feature, the overrated but promising "District 9." According to McCarthy's astute review, though, Elysium goes a step further into the arena of wild left-wing, Hollywood hypocrisy.

Here is how McCarthy describes the world and plot of what is likely another box-office bomb from star Matt Damon:

"Blomkamp sets the dystopian juices flowing with images of future sprawling slums and urban ruin that one might initially take to be Mexico City or Sao Paulo but that are soon identified as belonging to Los Angeles in 2154. Most of the beleaguered inhabitants seem to speak Spanish and do menial labor if they do anything at all, while good health care is very difficult to come by.

By contrast, hovering far above Earth and appearing like a five-spoked wheel in the sky is Elysium, an enormous space station where the rich live in a stress-free country club environment enhanced by marvelous technology that can cure any ailment, meaning that life can theoretically go on indefinitely."

Elysium opens in theaters this Friday, and according to early reviews, it is all about how the rich exploit the poor. What we are already seeing from the sci-fi film's star and director, is a startling lack of self-awareness. They apparently have no idea that their own film attacks everything they both stand for. The wealthy director had his working class crew film "Elysium" in a toxic environment:

To make "Elysium" was in many ways to live it -- a set in Vancouver provided the space habitat, a massive landfill in Mexico City was Earth. At one point a union representing some of the crew objected to the toxicity of the working conditions in the dump, and the production had to scrape off the top layer of silt and replace it with fake prop garbage. Before going to lunch, cast and crew had to pass through a clean zone.

Some have embraced Blomkamp's practice of neglecting his cast's health and safety, claiming that it enhances the artistic merit of the film and gives it a more genuine feel. While it might be a good way to "live" the movie, subjecting workers to a toxic environment for the sake of making a product certainly tells a lot about the director and his true values.

"You have this relatively wealthy First World crew coming into the abject slums of Mexico City with very high technology in amongst complete destitute poverty-stricken communities," Blomkamp said. "That is Elysium. We came from the space station of California and it ejected us right there."

The political message behind Elysium is clear. There is a disparity between the poor and the wealthy which correlates to health care access. Elysium, where everyone is rich, has good health care, and enjoys a relaxing life, is undoubtedly a metaphor for America. Earth, by contrast, must represent poorer countries, such as Mexico, where the Earth scenes were filmed. This is apparent as Elysium's ruling party makes it a point to keep out "illegal immigrants," not unlike conservative state leaders who are often criticized by liberal Hollywood elites. The irony in this message is that Elysium, has another symbolic meaning. It represents the very Hollywood Hills occupied by rich, well-off, disconnected elites, like film star Matt Damon. The mansions, lawns, and excessive decadent lifestyles of Hollywood Hills residents contrasted with the poverty and strife that surrounds them in the rest of Los Angeles, perfectly reflects the sociopolitical setting of Elysium.

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