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Elysium, Greek for Heaven

Updated on February 18, 2018

The story outline (Spoiler alert)

Go see the movie first if you do not want to have it spoiled by my telling of the story.

In the year 2135 or 2140 a poor boy (Max), around the age of ten, meets a poor girl (Frey) around the age of twelfth and they become friends. As their friendship deepens he promises her he will get her to Elysium, a man made space station, were it must be heaven to live compared to living on earth. Yes, mankind has developed the technology to build a space station that is so big it can be seen from earth, while it is in a geo stationary location over the west coast of the US. But mankind was unable to get rid of poverty and crime and clean up the earth and create a heaven on earth.

Fifteen or twenty years later Max, now played by Matt Damon, has turned into a criminal, a car thief to be precise, who is just out of prison and on parole. Max meets Frey, who has become a career nurse, in hospital were she works, to be treated for his broken arm. Max tries to rekindle their friendship, but Frey has a complicated life. Which turns out to be a child that has leukemia. If you do not understand why that makes someones life complicated, you are not alone because I did not understand it either. I would say any friend that can help you is one complication less.

Max has a job at a factory that builds robots. A factory that uses radioactivity to kill germs. A factory that is owned by a citizen of the space station Elysium. An owner who can code the most complex code, to run the space station Elysium, but only walks around with two bodyguard robots in a world of angry people. An owner who has now idea what it means to be emphatic, when one of his workers, Max, gets trapped in the chamber that is used to sterilize the robots, and gets a lethal dose of radiation. I still wonder why you would work with humans to build robots when you have robots that can do a complex job as a bodyguards.

International space station in 2006

The current state of space stations.
The current state of space stations. | Source

So now Max gets the news from the medical robot at the factory that he has five days to live, this factory owner must be really dumb. He does not feel any empathy for someone who gets a deadly dose of radiation and wants him removed before the victim starts to decompose and will dirty the medical bay. But he does have robots around that can diagnose radiation poisoning and prescribe medicine, so the victim can work the last five days of his live. It would have been cheaper replacing all humans in the factory, who bring in the germs that need to get sterilized, with robots. Then all you need is a human to repair a robot that breaks down. And repairing a robot can be done outside of the plant. Suddenly you also do not need radiation, which by the way also creates the need for a much sturdier robot, as radiation is not only dangerous to biological materials but also for electronics. As you replace humans with robots, you suddenly start to save money and saving money makes for bigger profits, as you can sell more at a lower price with a bigger margin of profit.

Max has five days to live, what does he do, he goes to an old friend in crime to get a ticket to Elysium. By this time we already have met Jody Foster in her role as defense secretary of Elysium, giving the order to shoot down three unauthorized shuttles. A secretary of defense who turns out to be not very happy with the current president and his policy of killing trespassers out of sight of his voters.

This friend agrees to help Max get to Elysium, if Max helps him get important information out of the head of a Elysium citizen, so they can use that information to rob the bank. Max agrees and is outfitted with an exoskeleton and an interface to transfer data between brains. Because citizens of Elysium keep the most important data they have in their brain, in the form of computerprograms. Ok, I admit that is weird. Who ever got the idea that humans would evolve into walking data storage units? Why would anyone want to store data in his brain as you now can store Giga Bytes of data on a chip the size of a quarter penny?

So Max decides he will go after the owner of the factory that did not show him any empathy. Lets say for brevity they succeed to get the data out of the owners brain and into that of Max. However it turns out that the data contains not only information about the bank, but more important it contains a reboot program for the whole space station Elysium. I wonder why it is possible that one person can reboot a whole space station with probably millions of citizens. Are all citizens of Elysium dumb from being exposed to the radiation of the sun? It must be, because I can not imagine that there is only one person who could reboot the whole system that Google uses to gather information around the World Wide Web. Like there never has been one person in any state with nuclear weapons who could fire a nuclear weapon on his own.

Our current state of space travel.

Space X's Falcon Heavy takes of on February 6th, 2018.
Space X's Falcon Heavy takes of on February 6th, 2018. | Source

Max now has the reboot program in his head. He is being chased by mercenaries who work for the secretary of defense of Elysium, after loosing his companions to the mercenaries while stealing the reboot program. The reboot program by the way was an idea of the defense secretary who wants to stage a coup to get rid of the weak politician who is president of Elysium.

As Max got wounded in the fight with the mercenaries, he finds Frey to help him and finds out that Frey's daughter has leukemia and can tell stories. As he flees, the mercenaries take Frey and her daughter, for a stupid reason, to find the location of Max, although they seem to posses all kinds of technology, like drones and instant facial recognition software and cameras that can switch to the best mode of signal processing to discern between an object searched and its background. Max now returns to his friend, who can not do anything to help him get to Elysium with the information in his head, because Elysium is jamming all radio transmissions due to the fact that the defense secretary wants Max's head with the reboot program. However his criminal friend recognizes the code as a reboot program. It seems that everybody on earth and Elysium uses the same programming language, so a well versed programmer has no problem recognizing any program written by other programmers. He tells Max that they can change the world and save everybody on earth with this reboot program. It turns out this criminal friend was Robin Hood in disguise, steal from the rich give to the poor.

The solution Max has for the jamming problem, is to have himself taken to Elysium by the mercenaries, by threatening them he will blow his head of. The mercenaries take him to Elysium, together with Frey and her daughter. On arrival on Elysium the mercenaries try to take the grenade away from Max, but fail and their transport is damaged by the blast and crashes. Max gets Frey and her daughter out of the crashed transport, but then he is captured. Now we get to the end of the story.

As the end again has a lot of action and is not really more then that, I will skip to a few moments before the end. The criminal friend of Max used the commotion around the crash of the ship that transported Max to get onto Elysium. There he finds Max and helps him get to the server room of Elysium. As Max gets connected to the server, his friend changes the reboot code so everybody on earth becomes a citizen of Elysium. How this is possible I do not know, as the reboot program was designed to change the president of Elysium.

As the program compiles the friend sees that running the program will result in the death of Max. Now Max has to decide if he is willing to die so everybody on earth can be saved and Frey's daughter can be healed. Because somewhere during the story it became clear that Elysium possessed the technology to heal every illness as long as you still have a beating heart and a working brain.

The end, Max decides he will sacrifice himself to save everybody on earth and make them citizens of Elysium. If only getting into heaven was just as easy as writing some computer program.

Commentary (Spoiler alert)

To comment I need to spoil more details about the movie, so if you want to see the movie without foreknowledge do not read on, but go see the movie.

Firstly, what this story makes me think of is: Atlas shrugged, by Ayn Rand. The story of all the rich people who went to live together in the mountains and left the rest of the world to fend for themselves.

Secondly, it is a Jesus Christ our Savior story. Max is willing to sacrifice himself to save all of humanity. Although the difference with Jesus is, that Max gets to choose to die, and Jesus was judged by the people and convicted by Pontus Pilatus to die.

Thirdly, it is a terrible movie as it goes from: violence and every human on earth is bad, to save every human on earth because they are citizens of Elysium. And it turns out that Elysium could have saved the earth from the beginning of the movie without that much of an effort as they had all the medical aid ready and healing someone with the medical apparatus they used on Elysium only takes a diagnoses and some rearranging on a molecular or cellular level.

Fourthly, who ever came up with the idea for this story as it assumes that in 100 years humanity has not become wiser, but has become dumber. A little like the Eloi and the Morlocks in The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.

Fifthly, did nobody in the organization around this movie ever feel some kind of uncertainty about what this movie was about and where the story was going and how much assumptions were needed of the viewer to make this story acceptable as a story.

For example the space station Elysium is a circular spoke station, which is good as you can create artificial gravity by having it turn round an axel. However the station is open on the inside of the ring where everybody lives. So shuttles can land on the living surface of the ring. But how did they think that would work with the air that is captured within that open space? Air reacts as a fluid. If you take a fluid and put it in an circular container that is open on the inside while that container is moving it will slowing but surely get agitated. Especially if the bottom of the container is not flat and almost smooth, but rough and full of objects with completely different forms and densities, from building to trees and grass and water. But also the spokes that hold the ring to the central nave. At a certain moment the wind you get from the air that is constantly agitated and full of moisture it has picked up moving over the water must be storm like. But it seems that I as a viewer have to assume that these dumb citizens of Elysium where able to solve this fluid property of air, so they would always have breathable air that blows like a gentle breeze, while they can not solve the earths problem of over population.

Another example, the space station Elysium is so big it can be seen from earth as a wheel with spokes, that reflects the sunlight. If a space station is so big, it would be in constant danger of being hit by space junk. Which we in our time already find such a problem, that we have a special world wide service that monitors all the space junk we humans have created to prevent the junk harming the still working satellites and the international space station. I do not think all this junk has come down in the next hundred years. So how do the citizens of Elysium protect themselves from all that junk, while living in a top down circular space station? In all the years is has been up it must have been hit by rather a lot of junk. From small to big at speeds up to several thousands of miles per hours. Or should I assume that they used the junk to build Elysium and now only have to fear meteorites?

One of the story idea's

Atlas Shrugged
Atlas Shrugged

The book that seems to be seen by many rich people as a justification for wanting to keep poor people and governments out of their wallet.


Another assumption this movie has, probably taken from Atlas Shrugged, is that only the rich people are smart and that poor people are dumb and will stay dumb and will not get smarter when confronted with a difficult situation. Where history has shown that human genetics is one that loves to play the long weird game. There are countless stories of dumb parents getting smart kids who where able to become rich and successful. There are also countless stories of rich and smart parents who got stupid kids, who where unable to use the riches they inherited to stay rich, and lost all of their inheritance. And lots of inventions have not been done by rich people, however there are lots of poor people who invented something that made them rich. But in this movie everybody on earth is poor, stupid and with the exception of a few people, criminal, even the rich people who live on Elysium are criminals as they feel they have the right to kill everybody who wants to escape earth and come live on Elysium. Getting to Elysium by the way is not that difficult as the defense system is based on firing rockets from earth after the shuttles have departed and are at top speed on their way to Elysium, to stop the "illegal" shuttles. The agent who has to fire the rockets, from a shoulder held launch pad, has to pick them up from a secure location that is secured with a number combination lock after being called to shoot down the shuttles. Where as a pilot of a shuttle all you need to do to avoid a rocket is to jerk your shuttle out of the path of the rocket at the right time. Which is rather strange as pilots today have all kinds of counter measures to fight rockets depending on the kind of rocket that is used, and jerking your plain out of the path of the rocket at the last moment is not one of them.

Sixthly, the movie seems to be a critique of the current state of humanity, but that critique gets buried under the amount of action they packed the movie with. A critique that might be justified, but is hidden so well to not spoil the action, that you wonder if the critique might be an accidental result of the story that was needed to create the action. A critique of the way politics is run and done. A critique of how the rich think that if you are poor you do not have rights, just to be oppressed and to follow orders. A critique of how easy politicians are at using military personnel to achieve their goals of power. A critique of how stupid politicians and rich people are to think that poor people will always accept the status quo as is, especially if you have a monopoly on violence.

Seventhly, the movie, due to Matt Damon in an action role, gives you the feeling of looking at a Jason Bourne movie set in the future. Again Matt Damon is hunted, without really knowing why. Again a close friend of Matt Damon is threatened and has to be saved by Matt Damon, or should I say Jason Bourne. If you started to think that someone took the Jason Bourne story and re-wrote it to the 22nd century I would agree, I would too think that.

Eighthly, who came up with the idea that to make an exoskeleton effective it needs to be hard wired to the human skeleton and nervous system? If the processing power in the exoskeleton is fast enough, it can react faster than a human thinking, so it only needs to correctly interpret the movement it has to replicate and enhance. Also how would it be possible for an exoskeleton that has to be connected to the human skeleton to be really effective if it has no time to become part of the skeleton it has to enhance. And why is the exoskeleton that Max wears as strong and flexible as the much better and sleeker looking exoskeleton the mercenary uses? As if after hundred years of research into exoskeletons nobody came up with the idea that some Japanese Anime writer had in the 1980's: An exoskeleton is nice, but an exoskeleton built into to a harnas is much better.

Jason Bourne

The Bourne Ultimate Collection
The Bourne Ultimate Collection

Elysium is not part of this collection, but all other Jason Bourne movies are part of it:

The Bourne Identity,

The Bourne supremacy,

The Bourne ultimatum,

The Bourne legacy,

Jason Bourne,

Bonus Disc.



So this movie has a lot of action in the form of running, shooting, blowing up robots and bad guys and fighting and never ever shows anything that resembles heaven.

However as it is running on a lot of assumptions and weird twists of personality, Jody Fosters character has no problem dying when she gets stabbed by the mercenary she uses to fight Matt Damons character Max, the movie just becomes weirder and weirder. Also the change in character for Max, who first goes to Elysium because he wants to be healed by the wonder machines from his radiation poisoning, but then when he learns that he will die when using the reboot program to make everybody a citizen of Elysium he chooses to die and heal and save all humans on earth.

So I will give this movie a three out of ten.

However if you do not mind the problems the movie contains, you are in for an action packed movie with some weird ideas about technology and humans in the future that ends with a true heroic sacrifice.

© 2018 Normyo Yonormyo

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