The Hard Technological Bodies of Elysium and Edge of Tomorrow


  • Aaron Tucker Ryerson University, Canada


hard body, military technology, posthuman, exoskeleton, combat


Susan Jefford’s work on Reagan-era action movies established the “hard body” as the over-muscled biological spectacle that functioned as a unifying force for both “a type of national character” and “the nation itself.” The “mastery” that the hard body represented is echoed in the equally spectacular hard technological bodies of the exoskeletonenhanced protagonists of Elysium and Edge of Tomorrow. While Jeffords argued that the 80s hard body was deeply suspicious of “technological innovation” as a possible polluter of the hard body’s individualism, the contemporary hard technological body freely blends its biological body with wearable and networked technologies to become an effective military assemblage that has morphed its mastery from international and physical conflicts to virtual and borderless ones.
Different from the all-encasing machine “suits” of Iron Man and Robocop, the combat exoskeleton is a literal “man-in-the-middle” soldier that deliberately melds the human and the machine so that the biological and the technological are visible simultaneously.

This paper briefly tracks representations of the exoskeleton through Aliens, The Matrix Revolutions and Avatar, before focusing on Elysium and Edge of Tomorrow. These two latest films showcase biological muscle combined with and augmented by a technological apparatus which, when combined, generate an updated spectacle still deeply rooted in the problematic 80s hard body. Such a figure is not the healthy symbiotic posthuman that N. Katherine Hayles promotes. Instead, the hard technological body, in an attempt to heroically reassert human exceptionalism, treats his/her computerized technologies as tools to be conquered and then weapons to conquer with.




How to Cite

Tucker, A. (2015). The Hard Technological Bodies of Elysium and Edge of Tomorrow. Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image, (7), 67–85. Retrieved from