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The theme of social inequality in elysium a movie by neill blomkamp

Blomkamp rightly gained attention and praise for his 2009 debut feature District 9, and his next film, this summer's Elysium, appears to contain the same amalgam of intelligence and action; and that brief yet indelible shot of Copley and his Japanese sword seems, in a weird sort of way, to sum up what's so compelling about Blomkamp's filmmaking career to date: Although it's impossible to say whether Elysium, with its bigger budget and higher expectations, can match the surprising excellence of District 9, its method of filtering current social concerns through a science fiction filter appears to be markedly similar.

In Elysium, it's 2154, and while the poor eke out a miserable existence on a miserable, dust-obfuscated Earth, the wealthy live like kings on the orbiting space platform of the title.

Elysium and the gap between rich and poor in sci-fi cinema

The contrasts between these two environments is made plain in the trailer; our cities are now ashen, crime-ridden slums, while the interior of Elysium looks like an expensive part of Los Angeles extended to the horizon. Elysium's mayor, played by a stern Jodie Foster in a sharp suit, owns a luxury apartment decked out with stone fire places, Persian rugs and oil paintings in gilt frames. Elsewhere, there are security droids, wide tracts of parkland, and medical scanners designed to rid the body of cancer.

On the other side of the social spectrum, there's Matt Damon's Max Da Costa, a lowly Earth dweller who becomes desperately ill following an accident at work.

The theme of social inequality in elysium a movie by neill blomkamp

With time running out, he has his body augmented with an exo-suit which, as the trailer demonstrates, gives Max the strength to take on a security droid in close-quarters combatand embarks on a dangerous attempt to board Elysium and use one of its life-saving med-pods.

It's a theme that's become increasingly prevalent in sci-fi over the past five years - unsurprising, given the ongoing fallout from the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Whether in books, comics or cinema, science fiction has always reflected current concerns, from the fear of nuclear attack in the Cold War in the 50s and 60s Invaders From Mars, Earth Vs The Flying Saucers to the growing sense of governmental distrust in the 70s Capricorn One, Soylent Green, Alien.

  • Elysium was trashy action flick;
  • It envisions a dystopia arising more from state neglect than from state control;
  • This ludditic impulse is most evident in The Matrix 1999 ,where technology controls not only the social order but also the very fabric of simulated reality;
  • Thank you for a wonderful stay.

Whether they intend to or not, filmmakers often end up capturing the contemporary mood so precisely that the results are quite startling; when Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes first screened for critics in the UK in 2011, its scenes of angry primates smashing up San Francisco had eerie parallels with rioters breaking windows in the London streets outside. This was a pure coincidence, of course, but maybe its timeliness was partly responsible for Rise's surprise box-office success; during an ongoing period of resentment towards banks and the establishment in general, it was cathartic to see a horde of the oppressed overthrow its masters.

It depicted a future where time is a currency, and the rich have so much of it that they're effectively immortal. For the less well-heeled, including perma-stubbled hero Justin Timberlake, life means working constantly in order to stay alive; and with everything from a cup of coffee to a bus ride nibbling away at his scant reserves of time, he decides to find a way to redress the balance between the classes.

  • It has everything you need;
  • In Elysium, on the other hand, the grim conditions experienced by the protagonist is more the product of under-regulation of the lives of individuals than of over-regulation.

A compelling concept was unfortunately lost among a rather by-the-numbers thriller plot and some logical inconsistencies, but In Time was still notable for being one of several recent mainstream films which openly questioned, through the filter of science fiction, why the gulf between the wealthiest and the poorest should be so huge.

Last year's Looper, written and directed by Rian Johnson, was itself a post-recession movie. Its near-future setting was clearly modelled on 30s Depression era America, with its crumbling, socially malign cities full of gangsters and the homeless, and violent crime offering one of the few lucrative career options for a generation of hedonistic young men.

With poverty and violence going round and round in a vicious cycle, with the murderous actions of one generation affecting those of the next, only Joseph Gordon-Levitt's hero could close the loop. The disparity between rich and poor has come up time and again elsewhere.

The theme of social inequality in elysium a movie by neill blomkamp

Len Wiseman's remake of Total Recall relocates the 1990 film's action to a dystopian Earth, where survivors of a global war live on opposite ends of the planet; the United Federation of Britain being a prosperous realm of elite rulers and their workers, while the Colony, located in Australia, is home to the slums of the lower classes.

The Hunger Games is set in a post-war America, where ordinary people are split up into districts while the rich live in powdered decadence in the Capitol.

The theme of social inequality in elysium a movie by neill blomkamp

This year's Upside Down, a romantic sci-fi starring Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst, imagines a pair of opposing worlds divided into rich and poor, where gravity itself keeps the classes apart.

Looking to the future, director Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer adapted from the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige will be about survivors of a nuclear ice age living on a constantly-moving train; and like a typical train of the present, the carriages are separated into standard and first-class accommodation.

The theme of social inequality in elysium a movie by neill blomkamp

Then there's a revolt, a revolution from the people in the back to the front of the train…" Class divides were explored before sci-fi movies even existed, of course - take a look at HG Wells' The Time Machine 1895 for one example - and was the central theme in Fritz Lang's Metropolis 1927a genre cinema landmark.

But the financial crisis - and our leaders' various attempts to reverse its negative effects, from bank bail-outs to stinging austerity measures - appears to have struck a chord with sci-fi screenwriters and filmmakers, and brought the debate about the proverbial One Percent to the fore.

They want to take that wealth and pour the glass half out to balance it in the rest of the planet. Other people want to close the borders. It could be argued, too, that these movies reflect the world as it currently is, but offer few valid ideas as to how it could be improved; In Time openly revels in the notion of redistributing wealth, but its final image of Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried robbing banks and dishing out time cartridges to an excited populace was more wishful thinking than workable solution.

Even Metropolis, classic though it is, ends with a groan-inducing scene in which its heroine acts as the mediator between the working class and the intellectual rulers - a conclusion even its creator described, with the benefit of hindsight, as a fairytale.

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But I was very interested in machines. Let's hope that, if he does attempt to depict the rebalance of wealth and power in his finished film, he finds a compelling, plausible means to do so. Ultimately, science fiction isn't about offering answers in any case, but inciting debate and exploring concerns in a way that is vibrant and exciting.

Science fiction is the sugar coating that sweetens reality's bitter pill.