Fans will get their first taste of Elysium when the trailer drops today, but a lucky few were treated to an early sample of Neill Blomkamp’s new movie during a limited screening event. In Los Angeles, Blomkamp, star Sharlto Copley and producer Simon Kinberg presented the Elysium trailer and 10 minutes of previously unseen footage to a packed theater while Matt Damon streamed in live from Berlin.
The footage offered an in-depth look at what Elysium is about: Damon’s character Max is a down-on-his-luck ex-con who finds himself trapped in a terrible situation. His only hope is to escape to the space station Elysium, which Blomkamp described as “Bel Air in space.” Needless to say, the journey doesn’t go smoothly, and it’s revealed that Max ends up with the power to destroy Elysium for good.
To say more would give away too many spoilers, and if District 9 taught viewers anything it’s that they should go into Blomkamp movies unspoiled. Much of Elysium‘s slum scenes look like they could have been taken directly from Blomkamp’s debut feature, although the director shot in Mexico City instead of Johannesburg. But the feel of those parts of Elysium is very much the same, which should be exciting to fans of District 9.
It’s the Elysium-set scenes where the movie really shines. The fully realized world feels both familiar and alien, and looks absolutely gorgeous. Blomkamp shot that portion in Vancouver, and it’s there that Jodie Foster has the majority of her scenes. Not much was seen of Foster or Copley in the footage shown, but a major plot point was revealed about William Fichtner’s billionaire character. All of the actors seem as if they gave their all, even though — as Copley joked — this is only Blomkamp’s second movie.
Following the presentation, Blomkamp, Kinberg and Copley held an informal question-and-answer period with select members of the press. Blomkamp confirmed that two-thirds of Elysium takes place on Earth, versus the Elysium space craft. He also denied that the Occupy Movement had a direct impact on his movie — although he did say they both discuss a similar problem: class separation.
In terms of that suit that Damon’s Max is seen wearing in the promos and newly released poster, Blomkamp explained he wanted the mechanism to seem “real.” It’s used to strengthen Max when he is weakened, and a scene from the footage shown proves that it works impressively well when used.
“I just wanted it to look really grungy and extremely low-end and kind of real,” the director said. “He’s sick in the film, so it makes him stronger but it doesn’t make him Iron Man strong. In the practical application, it’s actually a surprising amount of engineering.”
Don’t expect Elysium to spoon feed the movie’s history to viewers. Blomkamp said he initially started with barely any exposition explaining what Elysium was and why the world is this way in his film, but that didn’t work quite as he liked. Similarly, he went to the other extreme, but ultimately opted for something in the middle where there’s some explanation but also a lot of questions unanswered. Blomkamp said that’s how he prefers his sci-fi films be served to him.
Speaking of his sci-fi work, the director also addressed whether he’d return to the world of District 9 again. The concept of a “District 10” has been tossed around seemingly since the first film hit theaters, and Blomkamp confirmed he’s still open to the idea.
“In terms of sequels to my own stuff, a lot of it comes down to if there’s just more to say,” he said. “I think the world of District 9 has a lot of very interesting sort of race and oppression-based ideas that I would still like to explore.”
Kinberg, who’s seemingly responsible for producing everything in Hollywood right now, from the Star Wars sequels to Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, was asked to compare Elysium to X-Men: Days of Future Past, which he wrote and is producing. Both movies feature dystopian futures, but that’s apparently where the similarities end.
“They’re such different movies. They’re so different. The things that this touches on, like immigration and health care, class issues, aren’t really issues that a superhero movie is going to dive into the same way,” Kinberg said. “And the aesthetic is really different.”
Elysium opens Aug. 9.