When Matt Damon's Max encounters the kids who surround him hoping for money, there's a tiny bit of tension in the moment, like what we've got is a wildlife encounter between a mature bear and a curious pack of wolves, which should end with maybe one nip or a loud roar, or maybe some mutual entertainment, but could potentially go horribly wrong. But as soon as Max drops them a bit of money, we understand that in this movie, if you're of the dispossessed kids, are elderly, or a woman, you'll understandably do what you can for a bit to eat, but you're all earnest and good, even if choked down some for being so always scared. Guys can get rangier, but are not more interesting for it: unless of course that they'd get a kick out of an exoskeleton being drilled and bolted into you is going to make you look even uglier and cause you a great deal of pain, is for you a show that they're "complicated." So there really is nothing about the people left behind on this overcrowded, desert planet, that is interesting, and there's not much to our hero: who serves up samples of guesstimated-minimal-necessary shows of the abeyance and cowering and obliging that he has to do, lest he lose the one thing that gives him some satisfying edge over everyone else on the planet—his having a job—and just seems to add more and more puss-filled wounds to his large, fatigued mass, as he goes about the movie. He has sufficient pulling strength to ensure the narrative moves and so we don't feel permanently caught in this awful place, and that's really about it.
He says he wants to live, and that's why he wants to get to Elysium—to have his radiated, disintegrating organs, all in a magical moment, repaired. And of course this means he'll end up sacrificing his life and not living, even if he can't say, like Robert Kazinksy's also-ultimately-self-sacrificing Chuck Hansen plausibly does in Pacific Rim, that he rather enjoys living his life. But the character who really shows the kind of exhilarating heft that comes from not passively letting a world turn ill-fortune toward you, is of course evil-agent Kruger, who takes upon his taking over the space-station command with the same persuasive suavity as his swaggering a three-shooting missile-launcher into launching position, to down three ships that would have been traumatized a space station as if befelled by an insect invasion, if he didn't stop them short before arrival.
It's not really Jodie Foster's Delacourt, that is. There's something about these overt mother-types in current movies, that whatever their momentary grandiosity, makes them feel from the start horribly doomed. Like M in Skyfall and Crystal in Only God Forgives, who also looked to possess the acumen to persist and thrive in their positions, they're hit with some kind of wounding accusation that's set them up for some kind of justified, necessary, coup-de-grace by the end of the film. They’ve leveraged themselves in an un-allowed way so profoundly, that even if most men still part around them or out of fear pretend to keep faith with them—only offering up at-best glancing blows so that only other empowered women might hit them by mid-point with something more solid—an executioner has been let loose in the world that's going to get them, even if not themselves left in the end to be an ongoing hero. They can dwarf whole male hierarchies for awhile, but something about their being all alone while a whole world waits to get behind a single moment of seeming narrative necessity, makes it feel like they can for sure be taken out.
Once she’s out in this film, Kruger soon goes too. And so we have a bunch of androids bringing medicine down to huge hoards of dispossessed people, who of course oblige their weakest to get their remedies first. Somewhere some village boy shows appreciation, but kind of preferred when the space ships aired but got blown up in space—that was cool, mom! And the other villagers gather around and stone him, and not a spark of interesting doubt ever showed itself in this universe for a millennium of years. The men are dumb while the women are smart--but since this just means they go nurse rather than ambition doctor, male anxieties remain soothed.