Elysium tells the story of a future where the Earth has been driven to the brink of ruin, where the very wealthy have retreated to living on a man-made luxurious space station (Elysium). The protagonist Max is involved in an accident at his job, where he undergoes a severely high amount of radiation that leaves him with only a few days left to live. There is however one chance for him to be cured: in the advanced healing pods of Elysium. He undertakes a mission not only to access the technology himself, but to make it accessible to everyone on Earth.
The film touches upon multiple important issues such as health care, immigration, economic inequality, and environmental decay. The relationship between Elysium and Earth imitates the relationship between the coloniser and the colonised, touching upon topics such as Othering, outsoucing, and the politics of globalisation (Hyder, 2013). The presence of the space station also echoes the emergence of ‘privatised green enclaves’ in the real world: exclusive spaces created by the rich within those countries threatened by global warming. This is a characteristic of the rising ‘climate apartheid’, a system where the rich and powerful exploit the global ecological crisis to widen and entrench extreme inequalities and seal themselves off from its impacts (Brisman et al., 2018).
The film urges its audience to think about the concept of sustainable development in a broader dimension that encompasses the sustainability of the Earth, natural resources, and health. It sensitises it’s audience to the risks and ethical dilemmas in order to question socio-environmental problems more critically (Cardoso, 2019).