The end-of-summer blockbuster movie "Elysium", which was released to theaters on August 9, has received mixed reactions from Christian and family-oriented film reviewers.
Some of critics like the heroic protagonist portrayed by Matt Damon, whose sacrifices conjure up images of those made by Jesus. However, most are turned off by the huge amounts of violence and profanity contained in the script.
The story unfurls in the year 2154 when Earth is a planet inflicted by overpopulation, poverty, pollution, crime and disease.
The wealthy have escaped all of this, however. They inhabit a pristine, man-made space station called Elysium which allows them to maintain an almost heavenly existence.
The name given to the station is derived from a term from Greek mythology which means 'paradise'.
One of the main features of their lovely environment is the medical pods which heal disease and injuries for citizens of Elysium, no matter how acute.
The people still suffering on Earth dream of living on Elysium, and some try to get there.
In what many take as a political statement coming from the Neil Blomkamp, the South African director of the film, illegal immigrants seeking to reach Elysium by space shuttles are shot out of the sky on the orders of Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) early in the film.
Back on Earth, ex-convict Max (Matt Damon) labors on an assembly line, where he suffers a fatal dose of radiation during a machine malfunction.
Max dreamed of going to Elysium as a child, and promised his best friend, a girl named Frey, that he would get them there some day.
As an adult with five days to live, he now sees getting aboard a shuttle to reach the space station's medical pods as his only hope.
Max has gone straight, but in desperation he turns for help to Spider, a former associate from his days as a criminal.
The entrepreneurial and inventive crook (Wagner Moura) agrees to send Max to Elysium on a shuttle if he will steal corporate secrets from John Carlyle (William Fitchner), a contractor who is responsible for building Elysium.
Max agrees to Spider's terms and is fitted with an exoskeleton to make him stronger.
As he seeks to fulfill his mission for Spider, Max encounters Frey (Alice Braga). She is now a nurse with a young daughter named Matilda who is dying from leukemia.
Max also has to face off with a malicious mercenary named Kruger (Sharlto Copley), a hireling of Delacourt.
His job is to intercept Max and his team and stop their mission.
MAX AS A TYPE OF CHRIST
Reviewer Ryan Parker said of the film on Patheos.com, "Of course there is the potential to discuss Elysium as a Christian allegory, as some viewers have no doubt done.
"Max obtains the information that Spider wants, information that will unlock and reboot the security system that runs Elysium.
"Whoever acquires this information holds the key to give all Earthlings access to Elysium and its inherent benefits. But if Max gives up this information, or puts it into practice so to speak, it will kill him (a key fact that is not elaborated upon in the film)."
Plugged In, the movie review site of the faith-based organization Focus on the Family, saw spiritual content in the film.
Bob Waliszewski, director of the site, said in the Christian Post that if he were a pastor, he would play clips from Elysium to showcase the meaning of Jesus ' death on the cross.
The Plugged In review of the site, which has no byline, notes that Max and Frey were orphans raised by nuns. One of them tells the youthful Max, "You will do something very special one day, something you were born for."
The reviewer wrote of this comment:
"We Christians may quibble with that nod to fate. But it's an interesting theme, given that Max turns into something of a Christ-like figure, sacrificing his life for the sake of millions. He eventually reboots Elysium's computers to give Matilda access to healing machines. And the reboot not only opens the door for her, but for everyone living below. Soon, health care droids are shuttling down to the surface to dole out healing to everyone.
"Is it an accident, then, that in a movie with a word that means 'heaven', Max, through his death, like Christ, saves the whole world—giving access to glory through grace (not merit or money)?"
TOO MUCH PROFANITY AND VIOLENCE
Many reviewers, even those with no particular religious bent, deplored the excessive violence in "Elysium". Charles J. Reid, Jr. of the Huffington Post said that Max was not a perfect Christ figure because he accomplished his mission through violence.
"Christ was not a leveler," he wrote. "He was not a man of violence, and did not wish to lead a revolution of the poor against the rich."
The character of Max may actually be more indicative of the Apostle Peter, who first denied Christ but then followed him fully, ultimately giving his own life upside down on a cross.
Max began his quest for selfish reasons. However, he eventually cared so much for Frey and Matilda that he sacrificed himself for their benefit.
A reviewer for the Dove Foundation noted that the violence and profanity made "Elysium" unsuitable for family viewing.
The anonymous author wrote:
"I liked the ending: it offered hope for earthlings in the year 2154. Unfortunately, this is one of the most violent movies I have ever seen and several people left early at the screening I attended.
"It features a man's face exploding and we see him in a graphic scene afterward, missing his face. It also features several other bloody scenes which are the results of stabbings and shootings. In one scene a tech device is implanted in a man and we see him opened up along with the ugly wound and the blood.
"This is not the only content issue as far as family viewing. It contains so many F words I lost count not to mention a ton of other language including Biblical profanity (GD, JC). It is a shame the writer wasn't more creative. Anyone could stick in a profanity every other sentence but to come up with clever dialog is apparently a dying talent.
"This one is dark and grim and doesn't come close to earning our Dove Seal for family friendly viewing"