"Elysium" has been called a "socialist" blockbuster, thanks to a plot that finds a group of impoverished earthlings rising up to take on a group of 1-percenters who luxuriate on a posh space station without a care in the world.
Star Matt Damon and director Neill Blomkamp insist the film has no political message, but with a plot that echoes the Occupy Wall Street movement, it's clear that "Elysium" has more on its mind than popcorn.
Nor is it alone in using the science-fiction genre to raise questions about social, environmental or political issues.
1. THE MATRIX (1999)
What Was Brainy: Few action movies draw on Plato's Allegory of the Cave, Buddhist teachings and the work of theorists like Jean Baudrillard to cook up a futuristic world where machines have created a simulated reality in order to control humanity. The film was such a hit with brainiacs that college courses sprung up to dissect its layers of meanings and philosopher Cornel West joined the cast of its two sequels, "The Matrix Reloaded" and "Matrix Revolutions."
What Fell a Few IQ Points Short of Intelligent: Somebody forgot to tell Keanu Reeves to drop the surfer voice. Also, both "Reloaded" and "Revolutions" weren't thought-provoking -- just boring and pretentious.
2. MINORITY REPORT (2002)
What Was Brainy: Steven Spielberg's thriller focused on a police force that uses a trio of psychics to arrest criminals before they commit crimes. It's filled with gripping action sequences, but that's just frosting. At its heart, the film asks troubling questions about free will and seems to anticipate law-enforcement debates currently taking place in the country involving issues like stop-and-frisk and the widening expansion of government surveillance.
What Fell a Few IQ Points Short of Intelligent: The big "reveal" is a howler, and the ending suffers from Spielberg's addiction to syrup.
3. THE FLY (1986)
What Was Brainy: Man turns into bug is hardly the stuff of many academic essays -- unless of course they're about Kafka. In the hands of an idiosyncratic auteur like David Cronenberg, "The Fly" became a meditation on the horrors of aging, with many critics drawing parallels between the slow dissolution of the mad scientist played by Jeff Goldblum and the AIDS epidemic that prematurely killed off scores of young men and women during the Reagan era.
What Fell a Few IQ Points Short of Intelligent: There are a few cheap shocks, but like "Matrix," the real sin was the moronic sequel the movie spawned, 1989's "The Fly II." That dud suffered from Cronenberg's decision not to participate. Not smart, Hollywood. Not smart at all.
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