I want to make things clear. I did not and have not watched Neill Blomkamp’s District 9. There, I said it. As much of a science fiction fanatic as I am, I admit to never have seen the film many believe to be instrumental in the future of science fiction films. Perhaps I will see it someday, but for now, and for this article, I believe it puts me in a desirable position to critique Elysium.
To truly view a film for what it is, you have to remain neutral, and not let anything outside the film influence your thinking. With that said, I really enjoyed Elysium and was surprised at how well done and captivating it was. The pacing was magnificent with just enough to get your adrenaline going, but not peaking, until the climax. I only mention these positive aspects because I’m about to tear the film to shreds.
One of the most important things when writing science fiction is to create a consistent world with rules that govern themselves. It needs to be believable, empathic, and (oddly enough) logical. Suspension of belief takes a huge role for the audience because we are forced to forget the practicality of our current world and transfer ourselves into this foreign one. A huge habitat in outer space? No questions asked. An attachable exoskeleton being drilled into someone? Psh, whatever. Even a panacea-like medical pod? No one bats an eye.
However, as with every science fiction film, there are some things that are simply too bizarre,or too lousy, to forgive. Things that make the audience question the world, which momentarily breaks the immersion into a film. The following are five points that made me break back into reality when watching Elysium, if only for a few seconds.
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5) Exoskeleton: Pointless and misleading
This one is not so much a plot hole as it is a waste of time. After spending so much energy marketing how life-changing the exoskeleton was going to be for Max, it ended up being just a hunk of metal that happened to be drilled into him. Seriously, after it was attached, it was as if Max was walking around like he didn’t have it on and no one seemed to give a damn.
Perhaps these exoskeletons are common? If it was, there was certainly no mention of it. How about the fact that Max barely used it except as a handy and lousy way to deal with a few things. He blocked a sword swing once and was able to detach himself from Kruger at the end, but that’s it. They couldn’t think of anything more creative to show us? I was waiting for that moment, but never got it.
I know that the film wasn’t about the exoskeleton and that perhaps the producers are to blame for marketing and hyping it up, but either way, it serves no purpose in the overall story. The only part of the exoskeleton that has standing is the thing in Max’s brain, but even that could have been just that, solely a thing attached to Max’s brain. Maybe there’s some deeper meaning to the contraption. Actually, I hope there is and I hope someone can tell me the point of it other than being a disappointing… thing.
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4) Radiation: No fail-safe?
Ah, the world of Elysium, complete with a giant hovering space station with swooping gardens and crystal clear structures. A world so advanced that robots easily handle any problems that us humans just don’t want to do. So why in the hell does a simple radiation chamber not have a fail-safe or even a lock of sorts to keep the door open? Or why didn’t Max find something to keep it open? Better yet, why the hell do robots need to be blasted by radiation? Okay, maybe there’s a scientific reason for that last one, but as an audience, we’re not expected to know the dictionary of uses for radiation.
I kept thinking the entire time, “There isn’t an easier, safer way to do this?” Granted, we all know what’s coming, which does create a little suspense, but it’s yet again a lousy way to move the story. I honestly would have been just fine without the whole five-days-to-live-go-all-out device as the entire beginning showed just how desperate Max wanted to go to Elysium.
Or you could say everyone is greedy and didn’t want to install a fail-safe for puny earthlings. But still, why radiation for robots?
3) Code: That easy?
Man it sure was easy to make a code that could override the entire freaking system of Elysium. So much for advancements.
I enjoyed where they were going with the story, but when Carlyle whipped up the code in what seemed like less than a day, it was just too bizarre and it completely broke my suspension of belief. While I had trouble believing such an advanced society couldn’t make fail-safes, here I had trouble believing that the society could be so advanced that they can override their code in a day.
While it is true that Carlyle is the one who made Elysium, I find it hilarious that there is no jumping over hurdles just to get this code intact. Also, why hasn’t anyone else done it? With how technically proficient Spider was, there had to have been more people who were power hungry enough to want to rule Elysium.
Thankfully, the film picked up quick enough that my brief break in focus subsided, but now that I think about it, it really shouldn’t have been that easy.
2) Elysium: Population? Defenses?
So, I thought the code was easy to make, but what seemed even easier was how unprotected Elysium really was. I remember hearing in the trailer that it’s supposed to be the most highly guarded place, but then you get these illegal shuttles flying there whenever they damn please? Sure, two out of three of them got shot down in the beginning, but one made it. Also, people wouldn’t be throwing their money at Spider if there wasn’t a proven method of reaching Elysium.
On top of it, Elysium doesn’t seem to have any defenses of its own installed into its own system. Instead, they rely on a guy from Earth to shoot shuttles down, which is fine I guess, but that’s pretty far even for homing missiles. With the amount of people trying to break in, there was a supreme lack of defenses. I think just one shuttle came to the scene when Elysium was invaded both times with the rest of the resistance being Kruger and his men. It is no wonder why people are willing to get caught, because it’s so easy.
Then, when someone finally gets to Elysium, there’s no one there! So much for trying to preserve the population when there’s nothing to preserve except for a few empty mansions. Who the hell is cleaning these mansions anyways? This is more of a criticism of the movie itself, but I would have loved to see Max actually explore Elysium apropos to him just crashing.
The whole concept of Elysium screams plot hole and more lousy writing.
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1) Ending: Political mayhem
Throughout the entire film, after seeing the state of earth and the state of Elysium, I was with Max in wondering what it would be like if I were to actually live on such a beautiful habitat. Max dreamed of going there with Frey and though the characterization left something to be desired, the one thing I can fully stand behind is Max’s end goal.
Then the actual ending hit and the whole goal turn into “save the unfortunate.” This isn’t wrong in any sense and someone like Max would fight for a cause like this. Being a highly political film, I realize the intention of the criticisms of today’s immigration and healthcare concerns. But there’s one problem: this is science fiction, we’re not supposed to relate it to the real world. Perhaps Blomkamp is known for seamlessly doing so with District 9, but if he tried it again for Elysium, there simply wasn’t enough backing.
So where’s the plot hole? This is supposed to a feel good film with a bittersweet ending. Everyone is happy as can be with the sacrifice of the protagonist. Earth now has universal healthcare, everyone is a citizen of Elysium, and no one has to go home hungry, except they will. Give it a month or two and complete chaos will occur. Elysium will be trashed and horded with overpopulation, the medical pods will be fought and pillaged over, and the have-nots of the world will quickly become the haves, and greedy they will be.
The plot whole is the political criticism because it doesn’t make much sense to speak of freedom for all when it’s all going to be worse in the end. It’s great that Blomkamp thinks equal opportunity regardless of class is fair, but there’s far more to think about than just that. As wrong as it sounds, first world countries would be completely ruined if we brought all the citizens of the third world countries under our care. It’s because of this that the whole film fails to be a political statement.
Whether you agree with these plot holes or not, I’m gonna make it clear again that I enjoyed Elysium. Great pacing, and promising concept, but all the political mishmash felt overly forced and not seamlessly integrated into the film. I believe that with a little more time, this truly could have been something to behold.Previous