Hammerle On … 'Elysium' and 'Blackfish'

Robert Hammerle
August 28, 2013
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bob hammerle movie reviews“Elysium”

In Director Neill Blomkamp’s initial hit, “District 9” (2009), he took a startling look at the consequences of apartheid in South Africa, this time seen through the eyes of segregated, crustacean-like aliens trapped on Earth. With “Elysium,” we are catapulted forward to 2154 and an Earth that has been left in massive disarray. The wealthy and powerful have fled to a luxurious orbiting space station known as Elysium, while the remaining riffraff on a decaying Earth are left to battle for a menial existence.

Matt Damon plays Max, an ex-con trying to earn a meager living in a factory where any semblance of unions has been left in history’s dust. Suffering exposure to radiation poisoning that threatens his life, he is forced to seek a way to Elysium where medical facilities have evolved to effectively make humans immortal.

In the process, Max agrees to undergo a massive surgical process that attaches steel braces to his back and arms, not to mention a computer implant in his brain. If he wants a trip to Elysium, he has to help a benevolent underworld figure known as Spider (Wagner Moura) who is seeking a way to break Elysium’s code and bring equality back to the Earth.

What ensues is Max’s conflict with Elysium and its deadly robot henchmen on Earth. A massive anti-immigration policy exists on the circling station, and any intruding suspect is immediately killed. Jody Foster plays Delacourt, a heartless cabinet leader of Elysium’s government.hammerle
The suspense in the film builds rapidly and focuses on three superb performances by supporting actors. Sharito Copley, who was also fantastic in the above-referred to “District 9,” plays Kruger, a violent, cursing hitman doing Delacourt’s dirty work on Earth.

While Diego Luna embraces his role as Julio, Max’s devoted friend, Alice Braga steals the movie as Frey, Max’s friend from childhood. Now a nurse on Earth, she is desperately trying to get her leukemia-stricken daughter to Elysium for a cure.

What Mr. Blomkamp has created is an Earth where the wealthy care only about the wealthy. If global warming has destroyed our environment, so be it. Let the poor and the oppressed care for themselves, as that is their problem, not the nation’s. All that is needed is an ideal place to live and a robotic police force on Earth that will harshly maintain order.

In Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory” (1957), the powerful governments on this planet learned nothing after killing over 10 million young men in five years. The well-to-do, powerful politicians in Washington today proudly embrace Christianity on one hand while simultaneously ignoring Christ’s words of “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Mr. Blomkamp remembers that contradiction and it would be wise for us to do the same.

“Blackfish” exposes in dramatic, touching fashion the exploitation of Orca whales by the moguls running our billion-dollar national entertainment industry, and it simply cannot be missed. This documentary forces you to consider how these intelligent ocean creatures survive while confined for life in small aquatic facilities.

Told with the cooperation of multiple ex-trainers, “Blackfish” exposes this ongoing tragedy. Originally called Blackfish by Native Americans, the viewer soon learns that Orcas spend their entire lives at sea in a family community. Their lifespan generally reflects that of humans, and offspring stay in the company of their mothers for their entire lives. Additionally, their intelligence and communication skills are still being analyzed, and their attachment to each other is inspiring.

Though it has now been banned in the waters off of the United States, there are still whales in Sea World-type facilities that were captured as young calves at sea. One of the aging, grizzled participants in this brutal folly literally cried without shame while describing how Orca mothers refused to flee to safety when their offspring were captured in nets. I am certain that you will react the same way.
hammerle For reasons that are all too apparent, the largest fin of all the males droops noticeably in captivity, something that you seldom see in the oceans. You don’t have to guess why.

The bottom line is that these whales are kept penned up in facilities so that young kids can look on with awe and buy stuffed replicas as they leave. The effect is exactly the same as if we kept children locked in a 10-foot-square cell enclosed with glass at a mall so that people could pay to see how cute they are, not to mention how they like to play with their “trainers.”

However, it was the death in 2010 of Dawn Brancheau at Orlando’s Sea World that brought temporary focus on to this monstrosity. She was a recognized expert, loved by families and co-workers alike. There is actual film footage of the moment when Tilikum dragged her into the water by her arm, proceeding to then viciously demolish her. This was the third human Tilikum has killed in over 20 years of captivity, much of it in isolation, and you are left weeping for him as much as his victims.

Ironically, my wife, Monica Foster, and I just spent a week in the San Juan islands off the Washington coast. On a small raft we sat transfixed as we witnessed several pods of Orcas swim majestically near us. The thought of these intelligent creatures being kept in captivity remains heartbreaking.

As one of the ex-trainers said on film, 50 years from now this abhorrent process will have long ended, and those citizens will be wondering how their ancestors could have allowed it to happen at all. It is time to return these gorgeous creatures to the sea.•


Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. To read more of his reviews, visit The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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