Elysium Comic-Con Panel Reveals Impressive Footage
07.15.12 by Ryan
Sony's panel at the San Diego Comic-Con concentrated on their upcoming sci-fi projects, and one of the more highly-anticipated is Elysium, writer-director Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to his 2009 debut District 9. Blomkamp was on hand to discuss the movie, along with producer Simon Kinberg and stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley. The Comic-Con was a first for both Damon and Foster.
Seven minutes of footage from the movie were shown, though parts of it were unfinished, and a good amount of the shots were still in the pre-visualization phase. It didn't matter — the footage was still incredibly impressive and fans of District 9 will no doubt be pleased with the finished product. What the footage ultimately accomplished was to explain the movie's mysterious plot, which has been kept under wraps until a synopsis was leaked out last month that confirmed Blomkamp's previous description of Elysium as a movie with "sociopolitical ideas" inside a "Hollywood action film."
Set in a world where the Earth's environment has been compromised, Damon plays a working class man still living on the overpopulated planet, while the wealthy live in a space station called, appropriately, Elysium. There, citizens can relax in exotic locations and maintain a disease-free existence. On Earth, however, Damon gets overexposed to radiation during an accident at work and soon learns that he only has a few days to live. To save his own life, Damon needs to get to Elysium, which first means being outfitted in a steel exoskeleton that will allow him to rip the head off of a robot and capture a citizen of Elysium (William Fichtner). Ordered by Foster to stop him is Copley, who is also rigged with an exoskeleton as well as various weaponry like an energy shield. The action has the same kind of tension and realism of District 9 (or, as real as you can get when it comes to two men with metal exoskeletons fighting each other), and, despite the lack of finished effects, was arguably the highlight of the entire Sony panel which also included panels for the upcoming Total Recall and Looper.
During the panel, Blomkamp was asked the inevitable question about how Elysium first came to him.
The origin of it was really the idea of this space station that was separate from Earth, that the wealth of Earth had been taken and separated from Earth and that we'd left this impoverished planet behind us. You know, as a world, as an environment to begin a story inside of, that was the genesis.
Blomkamp has already proven that he can make an entertaining movie that can also tackle a serious and important human issue, and the director says that Elysium will still be filled with "explosions and popcorn."
There's no question that the theme is about wealth discrepancy and about the separation of rich and poor, but, primarily, just as a science fiction setting and as a place for a story to take place inside of, which is really where the genesis I think for, you know, for the kind of films I want to make. They need to take place inside interesting environments. It became a science fiction place that I just wanted to see these characters and the story evolve inside of. So, the subtext to the film are I guess those relatively important — and pretty apparent in the film — themes and ideas, but layered on top of that is a lot of explosions and popcorn.
And Blomkamp's marriage of "popcorn" and "important themes and ideas" is working. Both Damon and Foster admitted that they were drawn to the project because of Blomkamp and his work on District 9. "I saw District 9 and I felt like it was a perfect film," Foster said. "I wish I had directed the damn movie, and after I got over my jealousy, I said, 'I want to work with this guy.' And, luckily, the script came in and there was a girl in it. It also happens to be a beautiful script and it's about all sorts of things that matter to me and it's interesting to see somebody who is able to marry big ideas with beautiful, primitive, gut-wrenching explosions, death and all that other good stuff."
Copley, the lead actor in District 9, said that it was "incredible" to work with Blomkamp again, and relished being able to play a villain. "You don't get a chance to do entertaining, original villains very often," Copley admitted. "And so he's definitely allowed me to do that and I think, hopefully, I've done something a little bit different from what you'd expect from a movie villain."
Damon, meanwhile, admitted that he would have worked with Blomkamp no matter what the project was going to be, but said that he was also sold on the movie by the wealth of concept materials that Blomkamp had created.
He not only had this great script, but there was a whole book that he'd done, like a whole graphic novel that he'd done on his computer with this entire world that he'd built that was just in such incredible detail. and so arresting...It was this thing where I'd never seen anything like it but it was familiar to me. And there was a whole corresponding book of weaponry and then a whole other book with vehicles. So I had a lot to go on. You know, I always tell my friends if a movie doesn't quite work I say, "You know, we don't get to see it before we decide to be in it." It'd be really easy if we could see them first. So you just kind of make an educated guess. And I had so much to go on, this was the kind of thing where I said, "there was no way I going to let this get away, I have to be a part of this."
Damon may have regretted that stance, at least on the day that they shot a sequence in a garbage dump located in Mexico City, where he and Copley had to fight amongst a giant sandstorm comprised mostly of fecal matter. Damon explains:
It was the second-largest dump in the world, apparently there was one bigger than this one in Korea — so this was number two. And they told us that the dust was comprised mostly of fecal matter. So at the end of these scenes where Sharlto and I are just sweating, because we're running around, we have all this armor and it's hot. So at the end of these scenes, the helicopter would come through and we would be black with dust. And we'd look at each other and go: "This is fecal matter." And Neill would come up with his respirator on and he'd come up and he'd pull it down and he'd go: "I promise you the photography looks great."
Not that Damon's complaining. "No, I always knew why I was there," said Damon when asked if he was bothered by being covered in fecal matter. "It was one of those things where I was still happy to be there. I was saying to Jodie earlier and I was like, 'I just tried not to think about it.' You know, at the end of the day, you have to, you gotta do it. You signed up for the movie, you gotta do it."
After viewing the footage, Blomkamp was right. The photography does look great, and we're pretty sure Damon now understands that breathing in all that fecal matter was worth it.