Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. The best one-two punch of Comic-Con 2012 so far was the back to back Looper and Elysium presentations. Especially since these both came after of Total Recall’s panel where Len Wiseman very wisely stated that he had this brilliant idea to showcase a city in a sci-fi film that has built up instead of out. God, if only Fritz Lang or Ridley Scott or Luc Besson or George Lucas had that same epiphany!
Yes, I’m being snarky, but to use a very good British word that isn’t all that common over here, Wiseman came off like a twat on the panel. I’m sure he’s a super awesome dude and didn’t think about half of the things he said before he said it, but it seemed like every time he opened his mouth he said something that made me roll my eyes. Whether it was the above back-patting for something that is already in 85% of the world’s science fiction or him talking about how different his Total Recall is to the Schwarzenegger one right before showing a 6 minute sizzle reel filled with slick, but hollow action sequences interspersed with callbacks to the Verhoeven film, from the PG-13 version of the three-tittied prostitute to entire lifted lines (most of which are from the trailer) to a fake-out as a heavyset woman with red hair and an orange jacket (two weeks… tttwwwoooo weeeeeeekkkksssss) goes through a scanner that sets off an alarm, only to have it revealed that Colin Farrell is the dude behind her with a glithcy hologram face!
I may be biased against Recall, I’ll admit that. Len Wiseman is one of my least favorite big budget filmmakers working today, but I like the cast (yes, even his wife) and I think there’s a way to reboot Total Recall and give it a new identity (see what I did there?), but as usual this one just seems to be very slick and depressingly middle of the road. It looks like a musclehead, in a fit of roid rage, smashed Verhoeven’s Total Recall and I, Robot together.
So, seeing Looper follow it up was a breath of fresh air, but before I devote some time to that film I wanted to get Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium out of the way first.
Outside of that creepy still of Matt Damon wielding that big-ass gun we’ve seen virtually nothing on this film. Until today. Blomkamp showed a good chunk of the film in a sizzle reel format, explaining the set up of the film, giving us a taste of the tone and a feel for Matt Damon’s Max.
Basically the footage sets up that Earth is a giant shithole (surprise surprise). Over-polluted, over-populated… you know, the dystopian ideal… Very dusty, very District 9 feeling (in a good way, not in a “I’ve already seen this” way).
Just outside of Earth’s orbit is a man-made sanctuary with all the best scientific and medical minds called Elysium that looks like Stanley Kubrick’s Halo. It’s a Ringworld that rotates under machine power, very much reminiscent of the 2001 ships and it’s gorgeous. I have to wonder how much, if any, of what Blomkamp intended to be in his Halo movie made its way here.
The footage began by showing us these two contrasts and then showed us that the promise of a better life for those on Earth is a mega lie. As with everything, the super rich get all the benefits and the poor that scrounge up enough to move on up get blown away by a missile system while they think they’re on their way to paradise.
Damon plays Max, a worker bee type. The first bit of footage we see of him is him sassing a security bot (think a mean combination of the good boxing robot in Real Steel) on his way into work and getting the shit kicked out of him. He’s works on a robotic assembly line and an accident on the job gets him locked into a room with a toxic amount of radiation.
When he wakes up, he finds out he has 5 days to live and knowing the only place that could possibly cure him is Elysium he sets out, determined to find a way up there.
He’s hired to steal a device from William Fichtner’s character and that will pay his way to Elysium… of course, Fichtner’s character is an Elysium big shot, so Damon can’t just go get him in his puny 100% organic form. No way, Jose! He has get his crazy exo-suit you see in the above picture, which was shown being installed in a surprisingly bloody and horrific operating scene. We’re talking skull pieces removed and computer parts jammed in kind of wrongness.
I thought the set up was showing a whole movie about Damon tracking down Fichtner, but that seems to happen pretty early on in the story, actually. They get to him, get his device and Jodie Foster, up on Elysium, doesn’t like that and calls for backup assistance.
That assistance comes in the form of what I can only describe as a homeless ninja assassin played by District 9’s Sharlto Copley. This dude wears a ragged robe with a hood, like a Hobo Jedi, and fights with a katana sword… Copley is kinda nuts here, full beard, crazy eyes and some unexpected technology (there’s a scene where Damon has him dead to rights, fires his big gun and Copley activates some kind of crazy force field). It’s pretty clear that Damon is outmatched by this guy.
In fact, he’s always way in over his head it seems. There were bits of Damon ripping off a guard robot’s head with his new powerful exo-suit, a passing ship firing little hockey pucks out that attach themselves to somebody firing on the ship, then explode into a bloody mess, a ninja star thrown into somebody’s chest (“it’s only a flesh wound!” then boom, more splatter, and a few scenes of Jodie Foster’s crazy accurate South African accent as she shouts orders from her little neat and tidy office up in paradise.
From the footage I saw, the tone, feel and sense of politics at play very much sets Elysium as a tonal and spiritual follow-up to District 9. I’d almost call it a sequel in a Sergio Leone sense. You know that the Man With No Name Trilogy doesn’t really work as one cohesive storyline, but it reuses actors in a familiar landscape and that’s what this felt like. Huge production value, hard political sci-fi and tons of splattery gore.
On the panel were Blomkamp, Copley, Foster, Damon and producer Simon Kinburg. The footage was the main focus, but they told some fun stories, including one involving Damon having to lie under a truck full of pigs in the second largest dump in the world (in Mexico City) where there was a ton of dust that was comprised almost exclusively of fecal matter. A helicopter hovers above, looking for him, and when Blomkamp wanted the chopper to get lower to the ground they swapped out Damon for his stunt double who had to deal with all the fecal dust PLUS the urine of the terrified pigs that were freaked out by the chopper being so close.
The cast also fawned over Blomkamp, Fosters saying she wished she had directed District 9 and Damon said that after he saw D9 that he would have said yes to being in anything Blomkamp wanted him to do, with or without a script.
Both Copley and Blomkamp gave heartfelt thanks to Comic-Con, which they both marked as huge turning points for them when they screened the film here.
Copley even said we needed to put pressure on Blomkamp and Peter Jackson to get a sequel underway because he wants another job!
One of the audience questions brought up Team America, which Damon called “my best performance!” After laughing, he said he thinks Trey Parker and Matt Stone are brilliant and he'd love to legitimately work with them some day. He followed that up by saying that when he’s approached by those autograph collector guys that camp out and spring a folder of stills on him, he signs way more pictures of the puppet than of himself. Jodie Foster added that’s one of her favorite movies.
So, to sum it all up: the footage looked as good as I could have hoped, the effects were outstanding even in their unpolished form, Damon was really bringing it and the universe while recognizable isn’t just a plain retread from District 9.
If you only need a nudge to get super excited about that movie, consider me nudging the heck outta ya’ right now.
Got a few more panel wrap-ups to deliver tonight, so keep your eyes peeled! Coming up are Looper, The Walking Dead and Paranorman!