What Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’ Has In Common With Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Pacific Rim’

In the years I’ve been working as a professional critic, I’ve never been as excited for a follow-up to a directorial debut as I have been for whatever Niell Blomkamp decided to do after District 9, his story of a South Africa in which white and black citizens have united to enforce apartheid on a group of stranded aliens they’ve herded into townships, which for my money was both the smartest alien invasion movie and one of the most shattering love stories in years. I’d heard rumbles that his subsequent feature, Elysium, would follow up on some of the same themes, and according to the first reported plot summary, it sounds like that’s the case:

In the year 2159 two classes of people exist: the very wealthy who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth. Secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster), a hard the government official, will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium. That doesn’t stop the people of Earth from trying to get in, by any means they can. When unlucky Max (Matt Damon) is backed into a corner, he agrees to take on a daunting mission that if successful will not only save his life, but could bring equality to these polarized worlds.

In between this and Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim (In Time did this too, but less well) I’m very, very excited for the fact that a new crop of sci-fi movies that recognize that mobility is something that gets more valuable as society gets more stratified. Immigration reform gets treated like a poor people’s cause, in some limited cases, like it’s a gay cause—lack of mobility from one country to the next becomes a magnifying factor of the joblesseness and violence people face in Mexico, or the second-class treatment by the federal government of marriages between same-sex couples. But the ability to move across borders, and to do so free from harassment isn’t something we should take for granted. I’ve always loved fiction like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, which recognizes that restricting mobility and immigration is a way of reinforcing inequality. I’m choosing to believe that two big-budget science fiction movies on one of my favorite themes is my reward for fighting sexism.