Grigory Ryzhakov – Russian Writer

Sci-fi Flick: Elysium. Overpopulation and Immigration


Elysium (credit – Sony Pictures)

In ancient Greek mythology, Elysium is an afterlife place of happiness where the few chosen including heroes end up after they die.

In Neil Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi film of the same title, Elysium is a paradise, an artificially created world in the space near Earth, where everyone  can live forever and any diseases can be cured. In a way it’s afterlife, once you become immortal, can you still consider yourself a human being or you become a demigod in the face of eternity?

The film doesn’t touch this theme, however. Instead, it’s focused on illegal immigrants. The thing is when Elysium was built and the few chosen went to live up there, the Earth degraded into a big overpopulated dump, everyone there is poor and lucky to have even a basic job. And the best employment is with Armadyne, the corporation that built Elysium in the first place and keeps making stuff for it like arms and droids to protect Elysium from the unwanted immigration from Earth.

This reminds me of Europe and US and their immigration policies.  Hell, even the term ’alien’ has a double meaning in the context of any sci-fi immigration-themed thriller.

The main character Max, played by Matt Damon, wants , like everybody else to escape to Elysium. An accident at work leaves him on the brink of death and he got five days to get to the paradise and heal himself. His task becomes complicated when he steals an important information that can change the fate of Elysium and the entire humanity and, therefore, gets in the way of Elysium’s minister of defence, Jessica Delacourt (Jodi Foster), the film’s questionable villain. Questionable, because she’s just doing her job by not allowing the Earth inhabitants to land on Elysium. Her reasoning is simple – life on Earth is shit, on Elysium is great, what would happen if the big population of the trashed planet travels to tiny Elysium? I would guess that the paradise would turn into a dump in no time.

Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster portrays the minister Delacourt, the villain in question (credit – Sony Pictures)

Okay, maybe all the people on Earth want is to access Elysium’s advanced medicine to make everyone immortal. My next question is what is going to happen to the badly organised, trashed Earth overpopulated with immortals? Are they gonna live in peaceful harmony?

I think the immigration issue  raised in Elysium is not so simple: it’s not about rich and healthy oppressing poor and diseased or not letting them to soil their two-hundred year old lawns. Equally, barbed wire is not the answer. We need to ask ourselves a question: why do we have poverty and overpopulation in the first place?

Elysium is a reminder of how the modern socioeconomic system can make our world to further evolve into extremely isolated ghettos for the rich and for the poor. It’s not a dystopia, it’s a metaphor of our reality.


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