Immigration Politics And Sci Fi, The Underlying Message In ELYSIUM?

Jodie Foster Elysium

(Jodie Foster) is Secretary Rhodes, a hard line government official, who will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium.

Writer/Director Neil Blomkamp is no stranger to politics and science fiction. His 2009 film District 9 can be found on numerous “top 10” lists of the best sci fi movies of all time. While you can marvel at the realistic special effects and action in D9, it is hard to ignore the political base of the story. A group of insect-like humanoids arrive on earth and are placed in a massive refugee camp. No one wants them and a multinational private company (nod to Halliburton) is tasked with relocating the aliens. While disgusted by the creatures, we still want to take advantage of their technology and use them however we can. I believe that’s what you call a “parable.”

In Elysium, Blomkamp is exploring the theme of “The have’s and have not’s.” In his 2154 dystopia, earth has become one giant slum of working class people with limited access to food and healthcare, while the wealthy live on a giant palatial space station. Blomkamp is humble enough to admit his role as a director is to create an entertaining film. In a recent interview he said- “I don’t know if ‘addressing issues’ is the right way of putting it, because if you go about things with the mindset where you wake up one morning and go, ‘I’m going to address this important political issue,’ you shouldn’t be making popcorn blockbuster films. You should go make a documentary or get involved in politics or do something else. But I think any artist at some level is going to have political thoughts somehow, or at least observations.”

Still, you can’t take the refugee plight out of D9 in as much as you can’t take immigration and class struggle out of Elysium. Looking at Blomkamp’s background you can see how he has been molded by these ideas-

…growing up in South Africa, and then moving to Canada, I’m just genuinely interested in the difference between the first world and the third world, immigration, and how the new, globalized world is beginning to operate. All of those things run through my mind a lot.

Without giving too much away, the main character, Max (Matt Damon) decides to leave earth for Elysium when he becomes very sick. Max is desperate and will do whatever he needs to survive, even if that’s breaking a few laws. Let’s remember, Max is the hero in the story. The villain is Secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster) a hard-line anti-immigrant bureaucrat who will do what ever she can to prevent the poor still living on earth from migrating up to Elysium.

Umm, right; no modern relevant message here.