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I absolutely loved Neill Blomkamp's District 9, a gritty piece of South African SF where whiz-bang action met fairly deep ethical philosophizing. So imagine my excitement when I stumbled across an extended trailer for Blomkamp's new film, Elysium. You can watch it yourself, but here's a synopsis: In 2154, the privileged few live in Elysium, a space station that looks like a genetic recombination of Martha's Vineyard and Palm Beach. They dwell in posh digs while eradicating every bit of sickness through high-tech, personalized medical devices. On Earth below, the unwashed masses struggle to survive amongst dust-choked streets and crumbling ruins, watched over by an abusive police force and robotic caretakers who medicate malefactors rather than try to heal them. And healing is just what Max, the thief-turned-blue-collar-worker protagonist, needs. Injuries from an accident will kill him in five days, and an old-flame's daughter lies deathly ill, too. So he undergoes a brutal procedure that can barely be called surgery to turn himself into a cyborg with the ability to break into Elysium, so that the rest of us can gain access to the benefits horded by those within and ...
Wait a second: Does this sound like Occupy Wall Street articulating an argument for single-payer health care to anyone else?
Of course, I don't know what the thematic heart of Elysium will be because I haven't seen it, but the trailer sure seems to be wearing ideology on its sleeve. That's a danger of which storytellers must beware. Aside from one telling line, District 9 only subtly addressed its main theme of apartheid, meaning that it attracted audiences of every stripe. But any story that stakes its ground on a controversial issue too boldly risks ending up preaching only to the proverbial choir. For my part, I rather liked how Gary Phillips and Tony Chavira handled their ideological themes in the noirish comic-book compendium Beat L.A. You didn't need a prognosticator to figure out their perspective, but they populated the work with flawed yet interesting characters who held all sorts of viewpoints -- people, in other words, instead of mere mouthpieces.
(Picture: CC 2009 by khrawlings)