Comic Con 2012: Elysium panel with Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Neil Blomkamp

Neil Blomkamp blew the roof off Comic Con in 2009 with the premiere of the fantastic DISTRICT 9, so we were fookin’ excited to learn more about his secretive sci-fi follow up. And today in Hall H, Blomkamp, producer Simon Kinberg and actors Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copely showed us quite a bit.

Blomkamp started out by saying he tries to be honest as a filmmaker, but feels like a fan that should be in the audience at Comic Con. So the idea of launching footage here is a “true, honest thing.” Then it was time for a SNEAK PEEK:

We’re shown back and forth footage of a garbage filled, impoverished, washed-out Earth against a lush, colorful paradise that we later find out is Elysium . Text on the screen reads: “2143 – Earth is diseased. To escape the devastation, the wealthy have created a new world. No poverty. No sickness, No war…and you are not invited.”

We then return to the desolate Earth that’s literally trashed and seemingly run by robots. We see a bald Matt Damon get in to multiple altercations with these “droids,” mainly for being a smartass. It’s clear he doesn’t have any respect for whatever authority they represent. Next, we see him at work in a factory when he accidentally gets locked in a radiation chamber, Bruce Banner-style. Except instead of Hulking out, his boss tells him he has five days to live and that if he wants the kind of medical treatment he needs, he better get to Elysium. So Damon, who we learned during the panel is a former criminal that turned his back on his old life, seeks out someone who can get him to the space station. His assignment is to track down the awesome William Fichtner, a resident of Elysium, and perform a “data heist” on his brain.

At this point, probably due to his weakening health, Damon’s body gets retrofitted with an awesome exoskeleton that gives him cyborg strength. We see him use it to fight off Fichtner’s robot bodyguards and as he’s about to perform the data heist, Jodie Foster’s character on Elysium is notified that one of their own is under attack. DISTRICT 9’s Sharlto Copely is then dispatched and comes after Matt Damon in his own exoskeleton. The rest of the footage is mostly action shots from the rest of the movie. There’s a lot of exo-fighting, futuristic space chases, and more amazing weapons in the vein of DISTRICT 9. We see Matt Damon firing a weapon at Copely, who summons a force field from his exoskeleton to deflect the bullets. Then, my favorite moment—Copely shoots at a guy and says “It’s just a flesh wound”…right as his entire body explodes. There’s even a cool close up shot of Damon’s bleeding exoskeleton-clad hand right before it cut to the title.

  • From what we saw, though the world was definitely different, ELYSIUM looked almost like an epic extension of DISTRICT 9, at least in terms of the slum settings, the great weapons and robotic action, and the heavy thematic parallels. As Foster would later say, just as DISTRICT 9 looked much more expensive than its $30 million budget, ELYSIUM looks like it cost $250 million though the actual number was much less. I’m guessing there’s still much to this movie that we have seen yet.
  • Damon said it was an easy decision to work with Neil. He would’ve said “yes” regardless, but Blomkamp came to him with an entire graphic novel of the movie on his computer, along with corresponding books on the weaponry and vehicles of the world. The actor admitted he’s made some wrong choices in the past because “we don’t get to see it before we agree to do it”—but not in this case.

  • One of the ELYSIUM vehicles on display.

  • Foster was in the same boat, having been a big fan of DISTRICT 9 and calling it a “perfect film.” She said ELYSIUM is about all sorts of things that matter to her, mainly that it marries “intellectual ideas with primitive, gut wrenching explosions and death.”
  • Blomkamp blatantly stated that the underlying theme of the film is about wealth discrepancy, but the most important thing is the sci-fi setting. “I need my films to take place in interesting environments.”
  • Copely was very emotional about coming back to Comic Con. His visit in 2009 was a defining moment of his life and it hasn’t been the same since. (He’s currently playing Angelina Jolie’s love interest in MALEFICENT.)That being said, his character here is the opposite of Wikus, a complete and total badass.
  • Sections of the movie were shot on location in Mexico City, including at the world’s second largest garbage dump. The crew had to wear respirators and protection, but of course the actors couldn’t do that. Damon said they would be stuck in sandstorms of dried fecal matter, but Blomkamp would come up and say, “I promise you, the photography looks great!” The discussion continued for a while about other animal fluids, but I’ll spare you the details.
  • Some guy had the balls to do the “Matt Damon!” line from TEAM AMERICA and Damon called Trey Parker and Matt Stone geniuses and said he signs more autographs on the puppet picture than any other photo. Jodie Foster also admitted TEAM AMERICA was her favorite movie of all time.

One of the robots in the film.



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