Los Angeles is an overpopulated Third World wasteland, where swelling masses of non-whites scramble through the ruins of a once-great city. The rich and powerful live figuratively and literally above the ruins, experiencing luxuries and pleasures that most Angelenos can only dream of.
Also Matt Damon stars in a new movie set there. The only difference is that, in his futuristic version, the rich live in space.
Elysium is in its own way a masterpiece. It’s a dystopian morality play oblivious to its own absurdity, earnest to the point of kitsch, equally self-righteous and sentimental. In the world of the future, the middle class is a thing of the past, and so, apparently, is irony.
Yet despite it all, Damon and writer-director Neill Blomkamp give us something timeless. They have achieved artistic immortality in capturing the premises, the delusions, and the peculiarly poisonous moral idealism behind the ideology we call “Open Borders.” Elysium succeeds because it shows us what it is to believe that “citizenship” itself is the root cause of oppression.
Ironically, Elysium inadvertently concedes that today's “nativists” are right. The futuristic Los Angeles is a decrepit, overcrowded ruin. The English conversations of the main characters are simply for the American audience—all the casual encounters in the film are in Spanish. Matt Damon's character, “Max,” is the fulfillment of VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow's projected but unwritten concluding Alien Nation chapter about the last white family in Los Angeles, except that “Max” was raised by (Spanish-speaking) nuns.
At no point throughout the course of the film do we see an American flag. While there is the occasional vague reference to “the government,” there is no sense of American national identity, culture, or civic unity. There are simply the exploitative rich (who have literally abandoned the planet for the eponymous space-based refuge) and the resentful Third World masses.
In contrast, “Elysium” itself seems to have a semblance of identity and culture. This orbital refuge for the rich is almost entirely white, except for a few token Asians and a weak and cowardly Indian “President Patel” (Farhan Tahir). The real power in Elysium: Defense Secretary “Jessica Delacourt” (Jodie Foster in a comically bad performance). Foster gleefully veers into outright camp, affecting what can only be called a “supervillain” accent. We see her speaking French with the attractive “citizens” of Elysium and talking about giving presents to various blonde children—in today’s New America, this is the kind of “character development” that shows how evil she is.
Secretary “Delacourt” favors a hard line in defending her habitat. When challenged by the sniveling “Patel” over her tactics, she pronounces that unless someone has children, they can't understand her willingness to do anything to defend what has been built for them and their children's children.
Of course, we never actually see “Delacourt” with her children—or husband—interesting, considering Foster's own personal life. But insofar as we are given any insight into Foster's character, it is as someone who is willing to do anything to defend what has been built for “ourselves and our posterity.” This is seen as the very definition of evil.
And make no mistake—this is a morality tale about immigration policy. Thus the desperate Third World masses occasionally try to fly to Elysium in crude spacecraft. These are referred to as “undocumented” ships. “Delacourt” orders her Earth-based agent “Kruger” to “shoot them down.” (“Kruger,” needless to say, is a white South African—apparently they are still running around being oppressive centuries in the future. Director Blomkamp is himself a liberal white South African who, surprise, moved with his family to Canada after white rule ended). When one craft does make it to Elysium and the refugees scatter, they are referred to as “illegals” who are to be sent to “deportation” when captured.
The great attraction of Elysium, other than attractive aesthetics and artificially-created “natural” beauty, are its “Med-Pods,” advanced devices that can instantly cure injuries and disease in a matter of seconds. Most security, service, and administrative tasks are performed by droids of various sorts. These droids are produced by Armadyne, headed by “John Carlyle” (William Fichtner).
“Max” works in Armadyne's factory, where is he treated as utterly disposable and pushed to produce as much as possible as cheaply as possible. Because of a cruel supervisor, he is accidentally given a lethal dose of radiation and has only five days to live. With nothing to lose, he agrees to do a job for “Spider” (Brazilian actor Wagner Moura) an immigrant smuggler, in exchange for a ticket to Elysium and a chance at survival.
The job: to hack into the mind of Armadyne boss “John Carlyle” himself. But as “Carlyle” is scheming with “Delacourt” for an outright coup on Elysium, the result is “Max” gets the codes to Elysium itself—the ability to determine who is and who is not a citizen and command of the security systems. The codes are (SPOILER ALERT). implemented in “Max”'s brain. In the end, as you may have guessed, “Max” is able to defeat “Kruger”, take control of Elysium's system, and open the gates of Elysium to everyone.
Of course, there are various subplots involving powered exo-skeletons, futuristic weaponry, and “Kruger”'s betrayal and murder of “Delacourt” when he tries to take over Elysium himself. But these are all distractions. What is important is the moral vision underlying the film, which is entirely consistent and utterly predictable.
“Max”'s childhood love is “Frey,” a Latina woman (and single mother, naturally) with a daughter dying of leukemia. (She is played by Alice Braga (pictured right) perhaps significantly another Brazilian).
She is caught up in the violence when she helps a wounded “Max.” In the post-Christian culture of the post-West, the cinematic trope of the saint-like single mother with a child (and entirely absent father, a modern Immaculate Conception) serves as the new moral center for male protagonists—utterly blameless, totally altruistic (“Frey” is a nurse, of course), and the worthy object of sacrificial love. “Frey”'s daughter is the personal symbol of the entirely innocent and virtuous Third World masses whom the cruel (white) masters of Elysium are sentencing to death.
Elysium ultimately is transformed when “Spider” is able to use the code to literally transform everyone on earth from “Illegal” to “Legal.” As a result, the robots begin flying Med-Pods to Earth to instantly heal everyone. One hesitates to consider the effects of this policy on the “overpopulation” bemoaned at the beginning of the film but never mind.
“Max” allows “Spider” to remove the codes from his brain even though he knows the effort will kill him. Thus, although initially motivated by fear of death, “Max” ultimately sacrifices himself to destroy Elysium and save the masses on earth. The sacrificial white hero (and the moral glory he achieves by saving the helpless brown people from themselves) is the quintessential liberal fantasy.
In contrast, the white South African villain as a symbol of absolute depravity, sadistically violent, utterly disloyal…and, oddly, sexually obsessed with the random and rather average-looking Frey.
The premise underlying immigration enthusiasm of both Left and Right is that, like droids, modern civilization is an automatic program, something that can run on autopilot regardless of the actual population.
Further, like the “Med-Pods,” resources are infinite and it is simply a matter of taking them away from selfish people and giving them to the virtuous poor.
But in the real world, medical care is expensive and resources are limited. This mass immigration has been utterly devastating to hospitals around the country. As Obamacare takes effect, the result will be worse health care for everyone.
Furthermore, while we are supposed to sneer at the sheltered whites living in luxury on Elysium, the logic of the situation opening its borders will simply turn the space colony into what opening the U.S.A.’s borders have turned Los Angeles. Civilization is not just some program that can be transferred like a flash disk—it is a fragile, precious thing. Already it is being wiped out in entire neighborhoods, regions, and even countries of the Western world.
Denying people free medical care and luxury living might indeed be monstrous—if these benefits cost nothing. But in the real world, imposing limits on medical care, living space, and access to resources is necessary for a people to survive.
However, as Damon's character “Max” illustrates, the movie’s implicit point is that whites are obligated to die—even when it does no good in the long run.
But what do the likes of Matt Damon and Neill Blomkamp care? Blomkamp crows, “This isn't science fiction. This is today. This is now.”[Future Shock, by Sean Smith, Entertainment Weekly, August 2, 2013]
This is now—but not in the way Blomkamp thinks. We already live in a world where national solidarity and civic virtue has collapsed. But mass immigration is a reason for that collapse, not an alternative to it. And whatever their sloganeering, the likes of Damon and Blomkamp will be isolated from the consequences of the policies for which they are morally responsible.
If the movie had wanted to be realistic, the citizens of Elysium would keep a secure border for themselves but would use their money and power to make sure it was still open for everyone else. “Kruger” would be beating up patriotic activists. Secretary “Delacourt” would commit her murders in the name of democracy and equality. “Spider”, because of his Snowden-type violation of the cyberstate, would be called a racist terrorist.
At the end of the movie, Elysium is to be opened up to everyone. So what comes next for our heroes, now that the whole planet will become just one big nightmarish Los Angeles?
I can take a guess. Don't count on a sequel.
James Kirkpatrick [Email him] travels around the United States looking for a waiter who can speak English.