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Eleanor Ringel Cater

‘Elysium’ — movie shows how Hollywood types really view the city

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

How scared is the Hollywood elite of the city outside their zillion-dollar conclaves?

Really scared. If you need proof, look no further than “Elysium,” some sci-fi hokum supposedly set in the 22nd century, but actually pretty redolent of  a specific sort of  Lala-Land paranoia.

That is, rampant paranoia about all those people who make their comfortable gated lives possible. All those people — the cook, the chauffeur, the gardener, the pool boy,  whoever— who go away after dark. Where to? Their well-cushioned employers would rather not know.

In this creatively barren film that translates into an inner-city inferno now known as Earth, apparently mostly populated by Hispanics (told you this was a peculiarly Hollywood-style paranoia). The better-off (read anyone in the 1 percent) have decamped to Elysium,” a golden community in space that’s shaped, weirdly enough, like a Mercedes hood ornament.

A bald-as-a-billiard-ball Matt Damon stars as a low-life who needs to get Up There real quick.  Something about radiation poisoning.  Jodie Foster plays a nasty uber-boss who pretty much runs Elysium. However, she has higher ambitions.

The plot details matter not, mostly because I’ve just told you the essence of it: Damon needs to get to Elysium; Foster needs to stop him.

Yet again, Hollywood has snapped up an outsider — in this case, South African Neill Blomkamp, who made the arpatheid-laced and memorably metaphorical film, “District 9.”

Then they handed him a generic big-budget blunderbuss of a movie on which to put his “unique” stamp. He can’t pull it off; I’m not certain anyone could.

Perhaps the part of “Elysium” I enjoyed the most was that, aside from the stridently asexual Foster (not her fault; it’s the role), women were still happily hanging laundry out to dry on clotheslines.

Ah, the Future. It’s so…traditional.

Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.



  1. moliere August 20, 2013 9:34 am

    Huh? Come on. You can’t blame Hollywood for bringing in an outsider and imposing their pathos on. Neill Blomkamp wrote the script and was behind the entire project. And Blomkamp made everyone Hispanic in order to facilitate his political point about immigration reform/open borders. Elysium = (mostly white) America, Earth = (mostly Hispanic) Mexico, and even that is a symbol of the divide between the (mostly European) developed world and the (mostly nonwhite) developing and third world nations. By making everyone a citizen of Elysium (this is not a spoiler because it has been covered by most reviewers and also it isn’t as if anyone is seeing it anyway)  Blomkamp not so subtly promotes the idea that a single world government – not merely globalization/internationalism via the U.N. and treaty organizations but a single global government – is the way to achieve social justice for everyone, not just the people who happen to be citizens of a single wealthy nation.
    And that is why this movie challenges Hollywood – and the American left – instead of reflecting its paranoia. Who in Hollywood is paranoid about Hispanics? Hispanics are 58% of Los Angeles already. Non-Hispanic whites are less than 30% of the population, barely above the “some other race” (not black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American or biracial) category at 25%. The people who have such “rampant paranoia” about Hispanics or other nonwhites left Los Angeles for Wyoming, Colorado, Utah or the Dakotas years ago. Instead, this movie states that ObamaCare and immigration reform (which Blomkamp presumes as battles that have been won or will shortly be won) in America (and other countries like Canada and the EU) are not enough because they only help the citizens of those developed or first world nations. He isn’t interested in the 1% divide between the rich and “poor” in America, because being from Africa he has seen <b>real poverty</b>. So he is challenging Hollywood types by letting them know that merely agitating for and procuring better benefits for the people who despite whatever social or class inequities may exist <b>are still citizens of wealthy nations</b> is not <b>real social justice</b>. Instead, <b>real social justice</b> involves providing for the developing and third world. He is telling the American left to stop patting itself on the back for gaining more benefits for people who live in Indiana and start doing more for people who live in Indonesia. 
    Elysium was a foreign lefty challenging the American lefties for not being radical enough. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, that was its entire message.Report

  2. inatl August 22, 2013 2:45 pm

    Too bad moliere’s review of Elysium wasn’t run instead of ERC’s.     I was scratching my head about her review.    Personally I thought it was an amazingly entertaining movie that kept me on the edge of my seat (far more so than wolverine)   while also posing questions that too often get ignored.Report

  3. Warnin2U March 12, 2014 9:11 am

    Hadn’t thought about the movie that way before, but it makes sense.  None of us ever want to intentionally place ourselves in harms way, but that is exactly what would happen if we ventured into the inner city in most major metro areas.  I would suggest that it is not just hollywood types who feel this way, but most Americans.  The inner city has become the septic tank of the human race.  No one with any sense would want to subject themselves to the risk of being in proximity to people who don’t seem to share any Biblical values, defy all laws, and prey on everything that is weaker.Report


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