'Painting Ridiculous Ideas With The Brush Of Reality': 10 Things We Learned About Elysium

By Eric Eisenberg 2013-04-09 13:38:18discussion comments
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The movie has an important message, but Blomkamp doesn’t expect it to change society
Blomkamp certainly has important things to say with Elysium, but the truth of the matter is that the director doesn’t see the film as activism simply because he doesn’t expect the movie to actually spur social change. After denying that the movie took any inspiration from the Occupy movement – saying that “things manifest into reality out of the sort of global consciousness being aware of those topics” – the director noted that there is actually a particular danger in thinking that “popcorn cinema” is going to change anything.

“You can put ideas in there that are real issues that are going on in the world, and particularly for me there’s just a bunch of things that really interest me, and ideas formulate out of them,” he said. Instead, if he were to try and actually make an impact on the world at large he would choose a completely different medium than sci-fi/action blockbuster. “If I wanted to make something that actually made a difference roughly in this industry I would make a documentary. That would be the closest I could come to actually try and make a difference. So the film does speak about topics that really have a big impact on me, but I don’t know how much the audience takes away from it. It’s like inspiration for art.”

You won’t be seeing a lot of the film before it hits theaters
If you think back to 2009, there really wasn’t a great deal of promotional material out in the world for District 9. Sure, there were plenty of “For Humans Only” signs and a fair number of trailers and stills, but for the most part Blomkamp and the marketing department actually did its very best to reveal as little as possible about the movie before release. As a result, the twists and turns of the story came as great surprises when we actually paid for our tickets and sat in the theater to watch the plot play out. And while the director did reveal a full 10 minutes of footage yesterday for audiences in select cities around the world, he is still going to try and keep Elysium as much of a secret as he can.

“If you're a responsible, functioning filmmaker in the 21st century, you can't spend $100 million and then try to behave as though you're going to wrap it under a blanket and maybe one day play it at one theater in Vancouver. It just doesn't work,” Blomkamp said. “One of the reasons that I like Comic-Con as a venue is that I feel like I'm a fan. I feel like I'm the exact same person as people that come and watch the footage. It's a little weird that I made the film, so there's this kind of pedestal, soapbox talking thing element of the marketing that I don't really like. But you have to get it out there.”

Blomkamp is very hesitant about jumping into an established franchise…
Making both District 9 and Elysium as his first two feature films, Blomkamp has quickly established himself as an original, interesting voice in the science-fiction genre, but as with any filmmaker who finds success in Hollywood, the conversation always eventually turns to the idea of tackling either a franchise film or a sequel to something he has already made. But while the director is curious about the idea, a big part of what holds him back is the expectation that he would have to live up to, as he would be trying to match someone else’s vision in addition to his own.

“One of the things that I really learned with Halo, if I was given control, I would really like to do that film. But that's the problem. When something pre-exists, there's this idea of my own interpretation versus 150 other people involved with the film's interpretation of the same intellectual property. Then the entire film-going audience has their interpretation. You can really live up to or fail in their eyes.” And while he is open to the idea of diving back into the world of something like District 9 or telling the story of one of cinema’s “iconic” characters, he may not be there quite yet. “When I start dipping my toes into it, I get this allergic reaction. Maybe one day I'll end up doing something like that.”

...But he wants to continue making only genre films
There are many modern filmmakers, from Steven Spielberg to Gore Verbinski to Ridley Scott to Christopher Nolan, who don’t allow themselves to get stuck in any particular genre and are constantly exploring different kinds of storytelling, but that doesn’t seem to be the career trajectory that Blomkamp is interested in pursuing. While he certainly includes high-minded ideas in his movies and approaches important concepts and metaphors, he truly loves filtering them through the action blockbuster. “For me to make a film without any [robotics and guns], including action, is kind of boring to me,” the director said. “There's versions of that in films from filmmakers that I really like but, for me personally, to get invested and wanting to make it, it has gotta have genre elements. It has to have real – issues is the wrong word – but things that I want to explore and talk about also in the film.”

So if he doesn’t want to leave the world of action blockbusters behind, what does that mean for the future and what we can expect from him next? He may not know precisely at this point, but there are two elements he definitely wants to include. “My favorite film of all time is Aliens. Period. James Cameron's Aliens. What Elysium doesn't have that I'd like to put into the next film is slime and eggs. It's missing slime and eggs.”
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