Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
A scene from Queen of Outer Space. Courtesy Warner Home Video
A scene from Queen of Outer Space. Courtesy Warner Home Video

Elysium continues the theme that bad things happen to humans in space

The new sci-fi film Elysium ranks alongside previous cinematic imaginings of how human non-Earth habitats would look.

The South African director Neill Blomkamp made a huge splash with his mesmerising 2009 debut District 9. His highly anticipated follow-up, Elysium, sees Matt Damon and Jodie Foster share billing with the District 9 star Sharlto Copley in another outlandish tale of social inequality masquerading as a sci-fi blockbuster. 

Elysium was first mentioned in Greek mythology, as being the idyllic fields where those related to the gods would spend eternity. Well, in Los Angeles in 2154 it’s not blood but dollars that give you entry rights. Elysium is a giant space station where an artificial environment allows for the growing of perfect green lawns, the houses look to be designed for MTV’s Cribs and there is no disease.

Blomkamp has created a world that ranks alongside previous cinematic imaginings of how human non-Earth habitats would look.

The most famous depiction of future human life on Earth came from the mind of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall (1990). In contrast to Elysium, it is Earth that’s apparently the idyll and Mars the place of infighting. The planet looks half-built with pod-like buildings spurting from the ground; like something from the mind of Salvador Dali. Something drastic must have happened to the red planet because it did not feature in 2012’s Total Recall reboot starring Colin Farrell.

It seems that clichés also operate in space, so if you’re a female of the species, you head to Venus. In Queen of Outer Space (1958), a US rocket squadron lands and discovers an all-female civilisation. The women live in a palace that looks like a cheap set from Star Trek. Zsa Zsa Gabor plays a woman determined to reintroduce men into society.

One thing to remember is that if you ever find human life on the Moon – run for your life. In Missile to the Moon (1958), an expedition discovers a sinister matriarch presiding over Earth’s women. Implausibly the Moon has desert vegetation, wood and a sunny cloud-filled sky. The other problem is that you might just run into Nazis.

From the time of the 1947 novel Rocket Ship Galileo, there have been rumours that Adolf Hitler faked his own death and went to live out his days on the surface of the Moon. A number of B-movies have revelled in this pretext, most notably the 2012 crowd-sourcing phenomenon Iron Sky.

Bad things happening to humans in space is a theme that shows no sign of ending, even if we never get to find out what happens on ­Prometheus.

artslife@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Hajer Almosleh, the winner of the last year's short story competition, at her home in Dubai. Duncan Chard for the National

Get involved with The National’s short-story competition

Writers have two weeks to craft a winning submission, under the title and theme "The Turning Point".

 It is believed that the desert-like planet of Tatooine is being recreated for Star Wars: Episode VII. Could that be where filming in the UAE comes in? Courtesy Lucasfilms

Could the force be with us? The search for Star Wars truth

On the hunt for the Star Wars: Episode VII set, which a growing number of people are sure is in Abu Dhabi, but no one can seem to find.

 With an estimated 18,000 comic and film fans having already paid a visit to this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con, organisers are hopeful they will have surpassed last year total, of 21,000, by its close. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

In pictures: Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai

Dubai's World Trade Center was awash with people visiting this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con. Here's some of our best pictures.

 Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, presents Quincy Jones with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award as the Admaf founder Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo applauds. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival.

A candid talk with Quincy Jones about the UAE, Lil Wayne and the Abu Dhabi Festival award

The Abu Dhabi Festival honoree Quincy Jones discusses his legendary career as a music producer, the return of Dubai Music Week and why he can’t handle the rapper Lil Wayne.

 Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge arrive at Wellington Military Terminal on an RNZAF 757 from Sydney on April 7, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

In pictures: Will and Kate visit Australia and New Zealand

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge are on a tour Down Under for three weeks.

 A protester gives a victory sign during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo in November 2011. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Street life: humanity’s future depends on ability to negotiate and sustain public space

Negotiating our ever more crowded cities and maintaining vibrant public spaces are among the major challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National