12 Big Questions Left Unanswered by ‘Elysium’


Not everyone can have Isaac Asimov collaborate on their film’s screenplay, but if you’re going to go for an original work of science fiction it has to be solid. Otherwise, there are plenty of smartly written novels out there to be adapted. There’s something very appealing about not having any source material, though, at least in theory. And at least if you’ve previously shown a knack for being a fresh visionary, like Neill Blomkamp has.

Yet Blomkamp’s strong suit is in his visuals, particularly his juxtapositions of effects-driven alien and tech stuff over Third World backdrops. Also, weapons that make people graphically explode into pieces. Maybe that all will get old eventually, but it doesn’t in Elysium. What does get old fast is the suspension of disbelief we try to hold onto during the movie’s many convoluted plot points and its overcooked political themes.

As Rob wrote in his review, there’s some good world-building in the look of the film, but sadly the script tears it all down by failing to properly explain how and why that world works exactly. And the movie as  a whole leaves us with other big questions we just can’t shake or fill in ourselves. Find these below and add any you’re asking in the comments.



1. Why does it feel like the film’s world is only comprised of Los Angeles and Elysium?

I know, this is a story that takes place in L.A. and the space station. That’s not what I mean. Why is L.A. seemingly so central to the world? The worst thing visually with Blomkamp’s world building is it’s very narrow-looking. It’s just too simplistic to have our main characters be as significant as they are, most notably the military industrial corporation exec and the crime lord, all in such a small area. I’d love to know where the Chinese are in this future, to name only one other nationality. It’s pretty basic to just show us Third World peoples who speak Spanish and First (Off)World people who speak French and have that be all. I figure that there’d be a whole lot more of both sanctioned and unsanctioned spacecrafts traveling to Elysium from all over the globe given how often they appear to leave just from this one city.

2. How does Elysium have an atmosphere?

The space station looks pretty cool as open as it is, but what’s holding it all in? The gravity likely works because of the way Elysium is in constant spinning motion, but would that keep the air in? It was a shock when it turned out there wasn’t some sort of glass roof to the outside parts of the station, but then it was even more surprising how easily Spider and Kruger’s ships entered the airspace without any sort of barrier whatsoever.


3. Why continue sending people to Elysium if they’ll either be shot down in their travels or just be deported?

Well, I guess we could ask the same thing about why immigrants keep trying to get into America. But this case involves building spaceships (which must be pricey because they’re spaceships and not everyone is just building their own). Sure, some of the people are just hoping for the chance to get to one of those lifesaving miracle medical machines, but a lot of people seem naively just expecting to live on Elysium.

4. What is the class system hierarchy on Elysium?

Everyone on Elysium is supposedly rich, but not everyone is wealthy enough to have one of those giant mansions we keep seeing and to just hang out in their pools or at lawn parties all day. There are definitely a lot of workers there, such as Delacourt’s employees. They seem more upper middle class than wealthy elite, if even that. Do they just live in an apartment somewhere and barely make enough to be a citizen of this utopia? If they get fired, are there many other job prospects? Will they have to go to Earth?

5. Why does Kruger even work for Delacourt?

Kruger’s lifestyle doesn’t seem to be too much better than most on Earth. Maybe he has some better food to grill and cool weapons and means of travel, but otherwise his task seems major enough that he’d want to be paid pretty well and therefore would probably live much better, even if not on Elysium (I assume he thinks that place is too hoity-toity and lame). But he could probably just as easily — maybe even more easily given how much more badass he is — have a huge crime syndicate like Spider’s. Only better.

6. And why does she need him to?

Meanwhile, it seems odd that Elysium would require the services of Kruger. Yes, his work is illegal, but his work also appears to be the only real defense system the space station has against enemies. Sure, most of the time the intruders are just immigrants and can be easily rounded up and sent back. What if they’re terrorists? What is Delacourt supposed to use to protect that very vulnerable utopia with easily flown-into airspace? When Kruger starts going crazy with his sudden coup on Elysium, as well as when Spider arrives with his own revolutionary plans, shouldn’t there be an army of robots at the ready to take them down if not already some external defense system keeping them out in the first place?

Rather than a reject, Christopher Campbell is a film school dropout. But he has since gotten a master’s degree in cinema studies and has been blogging about movies since 2005. Earlier, he reviewed films for a zine (a what?) that you could buy at Tower Records (a what?). He is married with two children.

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