Matt Damon, 'Elysium' and White Flight

Matt Damon in "Elysium."

This year, big-budget dystopian fantasies have had quite a box office run: "White House Down," "Olympus Has Fallen" and "After Earth" and now "Elysium," starring Matt Damon.

In "Elysium," the wealthy have left everyone else on Earth, and decamped to a disease, poverty and immigrant-free utopia.  Grantland staff writer Wesley Morris says the film was limited in how it could tackle the issues of income equality. 

“It has to make people feel good about something that is inherently unsolvable and kind of a downer,” says Morris. 

While  inequality is the main theme of the film, Morris says another interesting bit is that Matt Damon is one of the only white people on Earth in the movie.

"You have the only white guy on Earth saving all of the sort of remaining brown people, by taking on the white people of this man-made satellite,” says Morris.

Morris says the idea of the "Great White Savior" is a recurring theme in Hollywood. He says the film could have been better if there were a star who looked like the people he was fighting for.

"You probably would have had a much stronger movie," he says, "if you would have cast Benicio Del Toro or Diego Luna, who is in this movie, or even Alice Braga, who is also in this movie, to be the person who goes to this satellite paradise and fights for the rights of downtrodden earthlings."

Morris says that’s not what you get because the market can’t sustain that kind of thing.  He says this is interesting since so many films are pitched to an international audience.

“If it’s pitched globally I can’t imagine that there isn’t a way in which you take some kind of risk and swap out Matt Damon for a star who looks like everybody else," says Morris.

Morris says he wonders if that’s a risk that a studio will be willing to take at some point.

About the author

Lizzie O'Leary is the new host of Marketplace Weekend.

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