Recently, I watched Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, a gripping sci-fi movie focused on the gap between the ultra-rich and the rest of society. In the movie, the gap has grown so much that the ultra wealthy abandon planet Earth and build a space station that orbits Earth and has everything anyone could ever want, included a “med pod,” which can cure a human of literally anything: from gunshot to disease. People on Elysium live forever and can modify themselves to be in practically any form they wish.
Here’s the IMDB’s official blurb (link):In the year 2154, the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth. A man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.
Also, embedded is the trailer for the movie, and here is a link to the IMDB cast list (link).
Read this!!: Before I go on a a bit of a tear about one specific of the movie, I’d like to point out that the premise of the movie is brilliant – it was a movie we needed to see. Whether you hold the literal interpretation of the movie – the growing disparity between the ultra-rich and the rest of us – or perhaps another interpretation, the point is that this movie touched on many social issues that we are facing as a society today. In that way, I absolutely love this movie.
The movie itself takes places in a 22nd century Los Angeles that lies in ruins. It is worthy to note that the primary language that signs are in is Spanish.
Below, is an image of the parole officer robot from the movie. This image itself comes from the Elysium website (link), which has lots of interactive components, an Elysium citizenship test that seems to be rigged being one of them. If you have seen the movie, head over to the website – it’s enjoyable!
Now, would you please….
Because you’re about to experience a paradigm shift.
So, hold on just a second…
Now, the primary language of the city seems to be Spanish, and this is verified as many parts of the beginning of the movie contain Spanish conversations, as well as the signage that has Spanish as the first language, like the parole bot above. Even Max Da Costa, played by Matt Damon, speaks Spanish.
Furthermore, the movie is cast so that many of the supporting roles are Planet Earth are Hispanic people. “Frey” played by Alice Barga, “Spider” played by Wagner Moura, and “Julio” played by Diego Luna all play major supporting roles on Earth. This makes sense considering that Spanish is a major language of the city and that the population is a majority Hispanic.
The hero of the movie is “Max Da Costa,” played by Matt Damon. I think Damon does a spectacular acting performance in this movie, and I have enjoyed so many of his movies as he is a phenomenal actor. However, I think the casting is a little peculiar for the hero character. If the primary language is Spanish, the majority of the population is Hispanic, why isn’t the hero of the movie Hispanic? As a matter of fact, the only Caucasian people on Earth with speaking roles are Damon’s manager at work, and the character “Kruger,” played be Sharlto Copley, who is an agent sent from Elysium to stop any resistance and rebellion to the system put in place by the Elysium elite. It is almost like they went out of their way to cast mostly Hispanic people for Earth, but yet fell short when they cast the hero.
Contrarily, the citizens of utopian Elysium all speak French, nonetheless, and are all of a very light complexion – I’m definitely thinking Type II or III on the Fitzpatrick scale (link), with the exception of President Patel.
While it is certainly possible that they cast Damon to get another big name in the movie to attract people, it is worth noting that Blomkamp’s first movie, District 9, did not have any big names like “Jodie Foster” and “Matt Damon,” yet it did extremely well at the box office.
District 9 operated a $30 million budget and made $210 million at the box office (source), while Elysium operated on a $115 million budget and netted $286 million at the box office (source). Both movies did exceptionally well, but I am not sure if having a big name actor really affected how Elysium did at the box office. It made more money than District 9, yes, but was more hyped and Blomkamp had already made a name for himself, and a big name at that, with the phenomenal District 9 by the time Elysium came around.
In addition, it has been proven by films, more recently, The Adjustment Bureau, which coincidentally starred Damon, that you do not need a lot of big name actors and actresses to create a successful movie, as Damon was the only “big name” actor in that movie.
While it’s true that Damon may have been the best actor and only available option – oh wait, you mean Blomkamp actually approached other people besides Damon, some of them unknown to the American people, and never intended to hire an hero that would represent the population? That’s exactly right. In fact, Blomkamp admitted in an interview that he first turned (link) to Eminem, yes, the Eminem, and then “Ninja,” a South African rapper (link). If you don’t believe it (because I sure didn’t, here is another source, (link) the Huffington Post, that confirms this.
On top of that, Blomkamp admitted in that same interview (link back to first article) that he originally intended the movie to be a low-budget film like District 9. It seemed like it would have been a perfect opportunity to let one of the supporting actors or actresses a shot at the hero role, or at least someone else that would have made more sense with the rest of the cast. All in all, the casting was puzzling. Yeah, that is a good way to put it, it is just a little puzzling. This is 2014, yet it still seems like there is sometimes a barrier that prevents having a hero who is not blatantly white.
Just a little puzzling.