ELYSIUM is Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to 2009's DISTRICT 9. On a site like this, that's all the selling Sony needs to do. But you've got to entice the rest of the world, so here's your first look at the theatrical trailer. Enjoy.
Right away, it's clear Blomkamp has made a film exploring, on a global scale, the stark differences between haves and have-nots in the somewhat distant future (2154 isn't exactly right around the corner). It's a sci-fi action film with a social conscience, much like DISTRICT 9 and very much in the vein of genre classics such as TERMINATOR 2, ROBOCOP and Jewison's ROLLERBALL. Blomkamp spoke to journalists following a trailer debut/footage presentation at the Hollywood Arclight on Monday, and while he didn't shy away from discussing the thematic content of his movie, he rejected overt comparisons to modern-day movements like Occupy Wall Street.
"Hopefully [the Occupy movement] didn't impact it at all," said Blomkamp. "I think if there's topics that are just on people's minds, things manifest into reality - the global consciousness being aware of those topics. Separate from the [Occupy discussion] and everything, I was thinking about this, and the film grew out of that. I remember reading about Chris Nolan trying to film some Occupy movement thing for the end of THE DARK KNIGHT series - that could've been horseshit. But that was the first time I realized that I was making a film that, in terms of global consciousness, fit into a CNN soundbite, and that upset me a little bit. I don't want them to be fast food that you can throw away, if that makes sense."
Blomkamp believes there's a way to invoke important issues in major studio tentpoles, but it's a tricky proposition. "I think that in the realm of commercial popcorn cinema, the amount of message or smuggling of ideas that you can get in there is quite limited," said Blomkamp. "If you think you're actually going to make a difference or change anything, you're on pretty thin ice. But you can put issues in there, and ideas formulate out of them. If I wanted to make something that made a difference, I'd make a documentary."
While Blomkamp might have some serious shit on his mind, he's primarily concerned with giving the audience the kind of thrill he got from James Cameron's ALIENS when he was a kid. Similar to DISTRICT 9, Blomkamp's protagonist in ELYSIUM, Max (Matt Damon), undergoes a physical transformation after a first-act accident. In this case, Max dons a battle-suit, which, basically, is an exoskeleton that, once it's literally drilled into his bones, gives him above-average strength when battling droids and the like. Since he's rapidly dying of cancer after being exposed to radiation in a workplace accident, Max badly needs the extra pop.
But it's not going to matter if he doesn't get his ass to Elysium, the ring-like Bel Air space station orbiting our bombed-out Earth. Up there, they've got a quick cure for cancer (and everything else you'll ever need). Unfortunately, unless you've got $1 billion in your bank account, you won't be dropping by. That's basically what's at stake in ELYSIUM. Max also has to assist a group of insurgents with the retrieval of massively important information from the brain of character played by William Fichtner. Sony showed a good chunk of a hijacking sequence in which we get to see Damon put his battle-suit to good, droid-wrecking use. It basically played like a more sophisticated version of the battle sequences in DISTRICT 9, meaning it'll kick your ass all over the theater.
Blomkamp describes his brand of sci-fi action as a "realistic portrayal of the ridiculous." He doesn't want to do hard sci-fi exactly, nor does he want to just make shit up. It's "painting ridiculous ideas with a realistic brush". This is the Blomkamp aesthetic. But if you're holding out hope that he'll one day do some hard, speculative sci-fi, you can forget that - at least for now. As the Q&A was wrapping up, Blomkamp reiterated that he will always take the ALIENS approach to the genre: smart, but packed with visually inventive action set pieces. So no FOUNDATION for him.
ELYSIUM hits theaters August 9, 2013.