'Elysium' delivers action, destruction and a deeper message on life

Wed Aug 7, 2013 1:44pm EDT
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By Mary Milliken

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Director Neill Blomkamp and leading man Matt Damon mostly want summer filmgoers to be completely entertained by the action-packed, sci-fi thriller "Elysium." But if the audience could also ponder the question of what to do about world poverty and inequality, well, that would be a bonus.

"Elysium," which opens this weekend, is not the typical light summer fare served up in big-budget Hollywood productions. And Blomkamp, the South African who made waves with his first feature, "District 9," is no typical director.

After all, he employed the alien invasion genre as a vehicle to explain xenophobia and segregation in South Africa, a novel concept that garnered four Oscar nominations in 2010, including best picture.

"Elysium" portrays two distinct worlds in the year 2154 - a diseased and overpopulated Earth, and Elysium, a space station where the elite live far from the seething masses in perfectly manicured mansions. Cancer can be cured in seconds on Elysium.

"Everyone who doesn't have that wealth wants it and will try to get it and the First World will probably try to hang on to it and it will get more dire," Blomkamp, 33, said in an interview. "What do you, as the audience member, think should be done?"

Damon plays Max, a blue-collar worker with a criminal past struggling with robot bureaucrats and policemen in his shantytown. He has given up on his childhood hopes of reaching Elysium when he suffers an industrial accident and needs to reach the First World's medicine to survive.

If the premise sounds far-fetched, Damon says not so much.

"If you look at the difference between the bottom billion people on planet Earth and the top 10 million, the contrast is as stark as living on a space station and living in a third world urban center," the actor said.   Continued...

Cast member Matt Damon poses during a photo call for "Elysium" in Los Angeles, California August 2, 2013. The movie opens in the U.S. on August 9. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni