Matt Damon in “Elyisum.”
People of Blomkamp. Blomkampians! Neill Blomkamp fans. The Elysium trailer is out — and it is good. Here:
The movie, starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, and written and directed by Neill Blomkamp of District 9 brilliance, won’t be released until Aug. 9. But on Monday, its distributor, Sony (Media Rights Capital produced the movie), had an event for the movie in Berlin and Los Angeles during which they screened the trailer, 10 minutes of the film, and made Blomkamp, some of the actors, and producer Simon Kinberg available to the press. The film looks, frankly, amazing: visually stunning and thoughtful. As was District 9.
We learned some things about it, and would like to share those things with you.
1) The title of Elysium refers to a space station where all the rich people of Earth have gone in 2154. That leaves Earth itself a desperate slum.
2) Matt Damon’s character, Max, an ex-convict who can’t get a break, has to get to Elysium, which no one has ever done before.
3) Damon, who was at the Berlin event, said he spent “hours in the gym.” This fact is obvious from the footage, we think!
4) Jodie Foster’s character plays Secretary Rhodes of Elysium, whose job it is to make sure poor people don’t get in. She is not, however, a black-and-white villain. “On Elysium, it’s a mirror of how the West is now with immigration,” said Blomkamp. “A lot of people want to help out the rest of the world, take that wealth and pour the glass half out and balance it on the rest of the planet. Other people want to close the borders. The people who run [the space station] fit into those two camps.”
5) It’s Sharlto Copley, the star of District 9, who is the real villain; he plays Kruger, who lives in, Copley said, “the slums of Earth” and is an undercover agent for Elysium who works against the people.
6) Copley’s character was inspired by the South African special ops soldiers who fought in the Border wars of the 1970s and ’80s. “It was guys who could go into the bush and just not come out for three months,” said Copley. “It’s very specific type of soldiering. It’s not like ‘Oh, I look so cool with my Oakleys!’” Copley also chose special dark contacts to make his character seem more menacing.
7) Though the movie has obvious political overtones, Blomkamp did not mean for Elysium to directly mirror the Occupy Wall Street arguments. “If you think you’re actually making a difference, you’re on pretty dangerous thin ice. But you can put ideas in there that are real issues that happening in the world,” he said. “If I wanted to make something and actually have it make a difference, I would make a documentary. The film does speak about topics that really have a big impact on me. But I don’t know how much the audience takes away from it.”
8) While District 9 had a largely improvised script, Elysium not only had a screenplay, but an entire visual world Blomkamp invented. Blomkamp said he had to tell Copley, his District 9 partner, “don’t do your normal bullshit — it’s going to be scripted!” (Damon called Copley in District 9 “one of the best male leading performances in the last 10 years.”)
9) The gorgeous and lush Elysium world was filmed in Vancouver; the hellish, desolate Earth scenes were filmed in Mexico City. “There’s parts of Mexico City that are really nice, and there’s parts that are really dodgy,” said Blomkamp. They filmed near the second largest garbage dump in the world, and an open sewer (referred to as “poo River,” said producer Simon Kinberg).
10) William Fitcher plays a man meant as an extreme satire of the über-wealthy’s disinterest in and disdain for people who are beneath them. When asked whether the character was inspired at all by people Blomkamp had encountered in Hollywood, he smiled and said, “Yes.”
11) Don’t expect to learn much about the origin of Elysium: Blomkamp says he shot an extensive prologue that he mostly cut from the film, save for a small explanation as to how Elysium came to exist. He even flirted with beginning the movie with zero explanation at all, but decided against it. (For example, he revealed at the press conference that one can buy citizenship on Elysium for $1 billion, information that he cut from the prologue.)
12) Everything in the film is more-or-less grounded in reality, even if it strains credibility. “In this film, and to a certain degree in District 9, both times proper science was thrown out the window a little bit in favor of metaphor or story,” says Blomkamp. “So, building a space station with marble and slate is not that smart. But the metaphor of Bel Air in space is correct. My approach is start with something ridiculous and then try the most realistic portrayal of the ridiculous as you can.”
13) To add more realism, Blomkamp personally wrote emails to companies asking permission to use their logos for the film. That includes a “Kawasaki” logo emblazoned on the arm of Damon’s strength suit.
14) After citing James Cameron’s Aliens as his favorite movie of all time, Blomkamp confessed his film is missing a crucial element. “What Elysium doesn’t have that I’d like to put in the next film, is there’s no slime and eggs. It’s missing slime and eggs.”