Elysium – The Hero’s journey breakdown

Ordinary world

Earth has been trashed and the rich people have evacuated it and live in Elysium, which has a divine lifestyle for those lucky enough to live there.


Max is singled out by the robot cops and has his arm broken.

Call to Adventure

Max is caught in a burst of radiation while building robots for the cooperation.

Refusal of the call

He’s not going to accept that he’s going to die from radiation poisoning and seeks out Spider to give him a job.

Supernatural Aid

Spider is the Mentor/Threshol guardian as he is one who supplies him with the exo-skeleton (talisman) but also the Nun who was in charge of the orphanage served as a guide as well and gave him his morality.

Crossing the First Threshold

Max agrees to get the exo-skeleton brain implant and capture the data contained in John Carlyle’s brain.

Belly of the whale

Attempting to extract the data from John Carlyle and the rest of the team including his best friend is killed. Max is seriously injured by Kruger and has to seek medical assistance from Frey. Belly of the whale often involves a near death experience when the plan goes bad.

The Road of the trials

This stage should have been a bit more about learning to use the exo-skeleton, I think this would have been a better film if he was developing and using his enhanced skills, learning to how to use them more efficiently and skilfully. Also the data extraction contained in his brain could have been accessed which enabled him to bypass certain Threshold guardians on Earth. Instead there’s not a lot about that, there’s some descent chase elements but pulling the pin on the grenade and surrendering himself to be captured was more of a plot of convenience rather than a plot of compulsion.

Meeting with the Goddess

Frey and her daughter are used as the Goddess, they inspire him to be the self sacrificing hero. This element is a bit weak as well, Max starts off the film as a nice enough guy, who plays around with poor kids, it would have been better if it touched on a similar moment used in Casablanca when Rick says he sticks his neck out for no one, that way when he does stick his neck out for Ilsa in the third Act we see a transformation of character, Rick has become the Hero. It’s true that Max listens to her hippo story and still refuses to help her but at that stage in the story

Woman as Temptress

This step seems missing, it’s fine for stages to be missing but it would have been better for character development to have a scene or a sequence where Max had an opportunity to save himself but in doing so it would mean that Frey and her daughter would suffer and he sacrifices this opportunity.

Death of the mentor

There is a small death of the mentor moment when a no fly zone is placed over LA. It means that Spider has essentially lost his power. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with this either, it didn’t make any sense to me, if they could shut down LA with a No Fly zone and they were worried about illegal aliens invading Elysium, why not just have the No Fly zone on permanently. This would have been a better stage if Spider had been abducted and taken back to Elysium or if he’d been killed and just before he died passed some key information onto Max which he needed to complete the journey in Act Three.

Atonement with the Father

This occurs when Max acknowledges that the Nun who was in charge of the orphanage


Max discovers that he has the reboot system for Elysium in his brain.

Ultimate Boon

This is also missing and why the film is not as satisfying as it should be and it relates back to the slightly flawed Road of the trials. This should be that Max has mastered how to use the exo-skeleton and the brain implant. With this ability/knowledge he is ready to take on Kruger and his men on Elysium. Instead it’s replaced with Max handing himself in by picking up the damaged hover disc and looking into the camera.

The Magic flight

Max flies up to Elysium and fights Kruger and his men

Rescue from without

Spider distracts Kruger momentarily to assist Max in their final fight, you could also look at Kruger’s arrogance during the fight which gave Max an opportunity to recover and win.

The crossing of the return Threshold

He plugs into the main frame to reboot the system and bring what he learnt (the data) to the benefit the world.

Master of two worlds

He acknowledges that he must die in order for everyone else to live and uploads the protected data into the mainframe which causes his death.

Freedom to live

The robots are reprogrammed to provide health services to all the poor people on the planet. This step was unearned as well. It was never explained why the people of Elysium wanted to keep their medical wonders from the people of Earth, given that they were using them as a slave labour force. A healthier slave labour force is a more productive one and there were expensive, comparatively primitive hospital/health services still allowed on Earth that it didn’t make any sense for them to be keeping it separate.


This film was good but I was a little bit disappointed walking out of the theatre, because I had such high hopes as it was made by the same man who made District 9, which is perfect.  Much of the Hero’s journey was there but, as I indicated above, The road of the trials and the Ultimate Boon stages were flawed and his character arc wasn’t perfect. I was a bit disconnected from him and the little girl.


There also seemed to be a few other plot issues that could have been tweaked.

  • The radiation blast that Max received should have done something to Max’s body which enabled the exo-skeleton to be attached to his body.
  • One person on the ground firing missiles into space to stop illegals entering Elysium was pretty stupid- put a gun on the star ship or fighters patrolling the space around the station.
  • The exo-skeleton should have come into it more, for instance, intially when Matt Damon shot the the ship out of the sky, it should have been directly related to the exo-skeleton. For whatever reason, you can’t have just been able to shoot the ship out of the sky, Max should have had to have had to jump onto the ship as it was taking off and then use his enhanced strength to bring it down.
  • He seemed to be drawing a parallel between Mexicans flooding into White America and ruining it. Almost everyone on Elysium was white and almost all the poor people on Earth Mexican or Black. Having rich white people running from the refugees when they landed on Elysium was too over the top for me. I’m not sure it was the best option however if you disagree with anything here, please feel free to give your opinion in the comments section.


Not that it’s related to the Hero’s journey but both the VFX and Matt Damon’s performance were excellent. I also included the Kill the Cat moment, which is the opposite of Save the Cat, the hero suffers a gross injustice to help us like him.

I was a little disappointed with this film, I think a better character to have had go on the hero’s journey in this film was this guy

Instead of Matt Damon, who started off as a nice guy and ended up making a heroic sacrifice for the world, it would have been much better to have this guy, happily killing all the people on Earth and protecting Elysium but then the Call to Adventure happens and he uses his covert operations skills to turn on his employers and protect the people on Earth and play out the story in a similar fashion. This would have been a far better movie and a much better transformation through the Hero’s journey.

2 Replies to “Elysium – The Hero’s journey breakdown”

  1. Why oh why didn’t they get you to write Elysium. If they had done what you’ve suggested above it would have been much better. I agree with everything you said but I hadn’t been able to put it into words like you did.

    1. There are a number of reasons why I didn’t write Elysium. (Too many to go into detail here) I may have been overly critical here because some people really liked it. Have a look at some of the other breakdowns on site and see how other films stack up.

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