Just watched Elysium tonight. Not a brilliant sci-fi movie and slightly repetitive after District 9 (I only learned afterwards that both movies share the same director) but better than most of the crap out there.
I consider Blomkamp's work to be in the tradition of 80s sci-fi trash like RoboCop or They Live, i.e. you get action, profanity and so on on the outside and pure Left with a capital L on the inside.
I like that Elysium illustrated an old point of Gilles Deleuze. Being on the Left first and above all means that your perspective is a general, "zoomed-out" one (By the way, it is no coincidence that it is precisely a nun which tells Max that he should not dream about paradise but think about Earth. Christianity proper is after all not a religion for the elite but for everybody and also deeply materialistic in the sense of "the truth is out there", what matters is what you do, i.e. no Buddhist beautiful soul nonsense.). It doesn't mean that you care more about the folks who are not so well off (which is certainly true for me, I do not give a sh*t about the millions and billions who suffer), you just realize that it cannot go on indefinitely like this.
This is precisely what we have in Elysium. Many people probably dislike the movie because Damon's character is so unlikable. He is a petty criminal and doesn't care about other people. His sacrifice is more due to circumstances than to some actual deep commitment. But we nonetheless sympathize with him because he is totally proletarized. Not just in the classical sense of being a worker who earns little and works in a dangerous, lethal environment but also in the sense of sharing a hellhole with billions of people and having to become a cyborg to survive.
About proletarization, Zizek
said it better:
Today's historical situation, I think, not only does not compel us to drop the notion of proletariat. On the contrary, it compels us to radicalize the Marxist notion of a proletarian, the exploited worker whose product is taken away from him so that he is reduced to subjectivity without substance. It should be radicalized to an existential level, well beyond Marxist imagination, a subject reduced to the evanescent point almost of the Cartesian cogito, deprived of all substantial content. What is ecological crisis if not another form of proletarization? We are being deprived of the natural substance of our existence. What is all the struggle for intellectual property if not an attempt to deprive us of the symbolic substance of our lives? What are biogenetic manipulations if not an attempt to deprive us even of our genetic legacy?
Obviously I am not a Marxist but I nonetheless think that this theoretical stuff neatly describes what is happening in Elysium which again describes what might be a possible future.
Actually I would say that it is an extremely likely future and I think that the 21st century will be far more horrible than the last one. My taste for utopian sci-fi like Trek is thus not utopian in the sense of dreaming about crazy, unrealistic visions but in the sense of "the actual utopia, the actual no-place is what is happening right now so we gotta come up with something else". It is thus deeply realistic and pragmatic.
If you think about the seemingly most idealistic Trek character, Picard, you realize that this seemingly crazy guy who fu*ks with every second Admiral over principles is at the same time the most realistic, pragmatic and unsentimental character.