(Spoilers) Watching Elysium is like watching a mirror image of Australia’s asylum seeker policy. The film centre around the concept of people on earth living in slums with violence and poverty while orbiting around the earth is a perfect space station with only white people. A number of golden quotes speak of the space station ‘Elysium’ as perfect, and the leaders not wanting to let other people in who may ruin their way of life.
A pivotal point in the film is where three ‘undocumented’ ships attempt to fly from earth to the space station in order to seek medical help and escape the horrors on earth. Elysium shoots down these ‘illegal’ arrivals and the ones that do make it they send back. This parallels Abbots’s ‘Operation Sovereign Borders‘, in which he promises to employ a ‘3 Star commander’ to defend Australian borders. As Roach notes:
There are startling parallels between Elysium’s desperate, interplanetary refugees, who crowd into rusty space ships in a desperate attempt to reach an elite, affluent space station orbiting a resource-starved earth, and the asylum seekers who strike out for Australia in unseaworthy boats.
In a similar vein, the films premiss rests on Elysium defining all earth people as ‘illegal’, much like our politicians obsession with this (incorrect) term. The final scene sees the heros hack into the space station and change the term ‘illegal’ to ‘legal’, allowing all people to access medical care and freedom.
Finally, Australia’s obsession with ‘people smugglers’ is also critiqued. The film first allows the viewer to see the smugglers as criminals, out to exploit and rob those desperate for a new life on elysium. However, as the film progress, we realise that the smugglers are not selfish criminals but are actually seeking to free the people of earth from ongoing persecution. Likewise, Australian politicians demean the people smugglers, without acknowledging the role they play is freeing people from persecution.
Yes it is an over-the-top hollywood blockbuster with too much action and unnecessary violence, but sometimes you need to appeal to the massess in order to start a conversation. The striking parallels should make every Australian question our cruel and inhumane policies.