Comic-Con 2012: ‘Elysium’ preview rocks Hall H

Adam Pockross
Movie Talk

Sony presented the "Elysium" panel at Comic Con's Hall H yesterday, and what a presentation it was. Director Neill Blomkamp presented a seven-minute rough-cut sizzle reel of the gritty sci-fi flick, calling it    "a window into what I'm trying to make." If what was presented is the rough cut, then hold on tight when the real thing hits the theaters in March 2013.

Blomkamp's follow up to his genre masterpiece "District 9" (2009) stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster (both Comic Con virgins), and "District 9" favorite Sharlto Copely, who all showed up to answer questions. The film presents the world in 2142, a world of haves and have-nots, of wealth discrepancy so vast that the rich have actually moved to a giant orbiting space station, Elysium, free from the earth's over-population, pollution, and rampant disease.

[Related: Video, news, and more from Comic-Con 2012]

The footage starts with a majestic wide shot of Elysium, a huge wheel in space, where with no sickness, no war, and beautiful people lying in plush tanning booths that scan their bodies for any pollutants and remove the carcinogens instantaneously.

A title card indicates Elysium is a place where you're not invited. A space ship heading straight for it is shot down by a precise and intimidating missile defense system.

Next we are presented with Damon as Max, a lowly human walking the earth that has become a dingy cesspool of poverty, sickness, and very long lines. The earth appears to be the slum of the universe. (They actually filmed in Mexico City at the second largest dump in the world.)

Max is presented as a sarcastic trouble maker, trying to joke with a droid checking his papers. This turns out very bad for Max, as he is quickly downed by the overwhelming strength of the droid.


Next, Max goes to his parole officer, another droid who is capable of reading vital signs and offering relaxing pills on the spot. Max is told that his sentence has been extended. No trial by his peers, just a sentence from a machine.

Max goes back to his crappy job at the factory. An accident happens, and Max quickly finds himself with radiation poisoning. Another droid glibly gives Max five days to live.

Desperately, Max decides he has to get to Elysium where they can treat his illness. He contacts some of his former criminal underworld friends, who hatch a plan to get Max aboard a rocket ship up to Elysium. It's a bit vague, but apparently there's a billionaire (inflation ain't what it used to be) played by William Fichtner who has information in his head that the criminals desperately want, and which they plan on uploading into machinery they must attach to Max. If successful, the mission might save more than Max's life, it might save earth itself.

The criminal mastermind, who seems quite nice really, puts Max under the knife and transforms him into a receptacle for information, and a butt-kicking one at that.

The team of criminals takes Max to go intercept the billionaire. Which they do, and a gun fight ensues between the billionaire's droids and the criminal gang. A lot of gritty fighting ensues, which ends with a lot of fallen droids and dead criminals. But Max is still alive and able to connect his machinery to an uplink in the billionaire. The download begins.

Up on Elysium, Foster's Secretary Rhodes presides over a control room which detects one of Elysium's illustrious citizens is being hacked. The chase is on. Rhodes contacts the closest agent of destruction, Sharlto Copely.

Copely chases Max all over. Space ships fly. Little girls need to be saved. Lots of droids explode. Fade to black. The crowd erupts. And 6,000 people are left biding their time till March 1, 2013 -- a date which has suddenly become much more important.

Below are some highlights from the panel discussion:

"It was the second largest dump in the world," said Damon about where they shot much of the film. The dust was comprised mostly of fecal matter. At the end of the day the'd be covered in dust because of the helicopter.  Damon: "I tried not to think about it."

One of Damon's stunt doubles actually was covered in pig urine at the end of one day's filming.

One fan asked Damon a nebulous question that somehow involved "Team America," to which Damon replied, "I've signed more of the puppet pictures" than other photos, even though he wasn't actually in that film. Surprisingly enough, Foster said "Team America" is her favorite film.

All the actors were effusive about working with Blomkamp, saying he was incredibly prepared, so much so that he had separate graphic novels on his computer of the story, the weapons, and the ships. "There was no question that Neil couldn't answer," said Damon, then he riffed on all the geeky NASA knowledge Neil has in his head.

Foster said she saw "District 9" and "thought it was a perfect film" and was mad she didn't direct it. With regards to Blomkamp's handling of "Elysium," Foster said, "He thought of everything before hand so he could put a movie up there that looks like a 250 million dollar movie but was not a 250 million dollar movie.

The fans loved Copely, who seemed extremely happy to be there. When asked about all the great things happening to him since "District 9," Copely said, "I'm trying to work out how to be Angelina Jolie's true love," in reference to the upcoming film "Malficent" (2014).

Hello from Comic-con, Day 3