Why scifi is awesome: Elysium

. 3 min read

I watch a lot of movies. I used to go to the movies a lot in my teens and early adulthood, and I have also worked in a movie theater. I even kept a movie-themed blog once. Nowadays I usually settle for watching rented movies at home, which is fine - the experience isn't the same as in a theater but you get to evaluate the plot and analyze different philosophical and psychological aspects of the film just the same.

So I would like to talk a little about a specific genre - scifi. (A little meaning the whole week.) I've always liked scifi - the fact that conventional rules aren't restricting the plot and things that couldn't happen (yet) in our world are everyday life in the movie. You get new perspective and new ideas when watching scifi. You feel like the limits that were bounding you before no longer exist.

Let's start with the movie mentioned in the title, Elysium (2013). Not the best scifi movie - not by far - but it has some interesting ideas. First of all, humankind has divided into the poor masses and the rich few, the poor masses living on Earth now turned into a dump, and the rich few living on a special construction, Elysium, located in Earth's orbit. Elysium has every commodity and luxury you could possibly want or need, including gravity, mansions for everyone, pools, green grass, golf fields, and what's important, a special device than can cure any disease and stop you from ageing - meaning, you can live forever on Elysium. Max, the protagonist, has to get to Elysium to use the special device to stop himself and the young daughter of a friend from dying prematurely, as he's been in a fatal accident at work and she has a fatal disease. The rich folk up on Elysium don't want the poor people up there and are doing everything in their power to keep the two groups of people separate.

It is suggested, at least between the lines, that the rich people up on Elysium are the bad guys of the movie - they not only live in abundance while people are poor and sick and dying in masses down on Earth, but also use the masses on Earth as manpower for supplying Elysium with what the rich want and need. It seems to be critique against capitalism: rich people don't work themselves and instead oppress the poor masses as their slaves. The rich Elysians have selfishly fled the Earth and left the poor ones to rot and die away with no empathy for them.

Meaning, selfishness, being rich, and not caring for the poor are purely evil qualities. Caring for others is the ultimate good.

It often seems to be the case in movies that since no one can argue with the statement that caring for others is good, the viewer is forced to take that side - regardless of what really is on the other side. Surely not all Elysians are evil - most of them are probably loving family people - but since they're not willing to give all their money away to the poor masses and give up their special curing machines to them (and thus possibly causing the deaths of their own sick children), they're evil. Every single one of them. The movie doesn't even give them the chance to show what they are really like under the presumptions or what kinds of things have motivated them into leaving Earth and living on Elysium.

Elysium fundamentally tries to give a description of what wealthy people are like, and the outcome is very one-sided and very propagandistic. Surely some wealthy people are selfish (in an oppressive way) and not caring for the poor or anyone else. But not all.

On the other hand, it's an interesting vision what technology could make possible and how humankind could organize itself in the future.