Given the rapturous reception he received for District 9 in 2009, Neill Blomkamp was treated to a warm welcome back to Hall H, especially as he was touting the first footage seen anywhere from his much-anticipated new movie, Elysium.
Starring Matt Damon, Elysium takes place in 2154, and Earth has been wrecked by pollution, overpopulation and conflict. The rich have left the planet and now live in a massive space station where cancer can be cured and everyone enjoys a luxurious existence. Damon’s character, Max, though, is stuck on Earth in a bad job – one that gets even worse when he’s exposed to lethal radiation. With five days left to live, his only hope is to find a way to make it to Elysium.
To do that, he’ll have to delve back into his criminal past – agreeing to help a dodgy contact with a data heist. Except in this case, the data is a person’s brain, and the men have to plot a way to steal it from its original owner, played by William Fichtner. And that will not be easy, especially with a brutal former black ops agent (Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley) dispatched to stop them.
The footage looks great – very reminiscent of District 9 but with a much bigger budget that Blomkamp has used wisely to make it look even heftier. While the effects were rough, they were integrated perfectly into the hardscrabble universe of the film. Fans of D9’s blend of gore and humour will appreciate a surgery scene where Damon’s skull is cracked open and a chip inserted.
Elysium itself was glimpsed briefly – with Jodie Foster sporting an accent that was tinged with South African infections and appears to be the standard patois of the place. We got the feeling Blomkamp wanted to hold back on revealing too much of the place – smart, as we’re dying to see more. Fichtner was predictably badass and his robot bodyguards (carrying weapons that can explode a man into fragments) are going to be a visual treat. Plus Copley, as a bearded, sword-swinging agent, is sure to steal the show.
Oh, and highlight of the panel? Either Sharlto Copley making Blomkamp admit how much work he did on District 9, or Damon cracking the audience up saying how he signs more photos of his Team America puppet (for which he did not even provide the voice) than of himself...