With all due respect to Total Recall and Looper, which each look fantastic, most of us packed into Hall H for Sony’s panel to get our first official look at Elysium, the anticipated sci-fi thriller from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp. The director is bringing Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, producer Simon Kinberg and what we hope is some groundbreaking footage as the Hall H day comes to a close.
OK, Elysium. What’ve you got for us?
5:50 We're probably starting right away. This Sony panel is moving fast.
5:52 “I actually feel like I belong in [the audience]. … I feel like I’m a fan,” Neill Blomkamp says as soon as he takes the stage. “The idea of launching footage at Comic Con, I feel, is the true honest place. … I’m OK with it.”
5:55 The footage is coming up. Blomkamp says the effects are “incredibly rough” He calls it low-res stuff that gives us a “window” into what we’re going to get. He seems to be making excuses. Let’s see. Here comes the footage.
6:00 He wasn't making excuses. At all. The footage is incredible. We saw almost 7 or 8 minutes of the film, setting up a lot of the movie's plot. As you might already know, our planet (in the future) is polluted beyond repair. The wealthy have moved to a floating space station dubbed Elysium. The effects to create Elysium were the rough elements Blomkamp talked about, but we saw enough to get us excited ... including a shot of people from Earth trying to get to the space station. They are blown out of the sky.
Then we meet Damon's character, a wise-cracking blue-collar worker who interacts with the world for a few minutes of footage. We see how technological our world has become, and how detached humanity now is from the forces that govern it. Then, at work, Damon's character gets infected during a chemical accident. He's told he only has days to live. But he thinks he can get proper treatment ... on Elysium.
There's more to the plot, but I kind of want to stop there. We see brief clips of Foster's character as she sits on Elysium. And District 9 star Sharlto Copley plays a wicked villain tasked with hunting Damon's character, and he looks menacing as hell. But he has a sick sense of humor that makes me think I'm going to love the manic energy he'll bring to the film. Blomkamp's visuals are magnificent. They mix District 9 with Mad Max with The Terminator, but his story finds an emotional hook. It looks incredible.
6:02 "Did you guys like?" Blomkamp asks, to a roar. "Good. I'm glad."
6:05 Comic Con newcomers Matt Damon and Jodie Foster are welcomed to the stage. Both say they would have done anything with Blomkamp following District 9.
6:06 Sharlto Copley is getting a lot of love from the Con crowd. He calls his 2009 appearance in San Diego with D9 "a defining moment" in his career, and he continues to thank the fans. His character, in the trailer, looks like a gonzo killer. HIs villain looks like so much fun. He might steal the show.
6:08 There's a lot of talk about the social issues that are being addressed in the film, with Blomkamp saying it really does deal with the divide between the haves and the have nots. If you saw District 9, you know Blomkamp uses sci-fi to address big issues. This will be more of the same.
6:09 For some reason, there's a steady exodus out of the Hall as Damon and Foster field questions. Don't you people want to hear about the craft of acting?
6:11 Jodie Foster name drops Nell. Three people clap and yell. C'mon, folks. It's a good movie!
6:12 Damon has a great anecdote about how smart Blomkamp is, in case you couldn't figure it out from his intelligent movies.
6:13 Copley is getting so much love from this crowd. He downplays the concept that he's a star ... then says he's working on a picture in London where he gets to be Angelina Jolie's lover. Yeah, dude. That means you are a star.
6:14 Blomkamp says that he relied on a lot of CGI, but as a background, and he hopes it didn't get in the way. He says Foster had to work alongside the most green screen, while the actors had stunt men in rubber suits to play off of in the action scenes. Copley, sensing that the crowd is dying down, welcomes them all back to Comic Con again. This is a strange panel.
6:16 An upbeat fan asks Damon and Foster to compare Blomkamp to the likes of Scorsese and other classic directors. Damon says that he thinks Blomkamp belongs in the same breath as the top directors. Well, of course. He's sitting right next to Damon on the panel!
6:17 Producer Simon Kinsberg says it was important to bring back most of the creative team from D9 because they brought such realism to that first film, and they wanted that feel for Elysium. Blomkamp says they're very skilled at getting the best look for a smaller budget, and the trick is going to tough locations like Mexico City to immerse yourself in complicated situations to capture hostile realism. It shows in the footage.
6:20 Damon says one key sequence was filmed in "the second largest dump in the world," where the majority of the particles in the air were fecal matter. Damon says he and Copley would be covered in black smoot at the end of each shot, realizing they were coated in shit. But Blomkamp would come running up with his gas mask on and say, "I assure you, the footage looks incredibly cool."
6:22 There's another long story about a scene involving a helicopter kicking up dirt, fecal matter and pig piss on Matt Damon. There's far more piss and shit mentions in this panel than I expected.
6:23 But Blomkamp says when he ran up to Damon for these difficult shoots to ask him if he's OK with what they are filming, the actor responded, "I read the script." Total pro.
6:24 Dude asks Damon how preparing for an action movie is different from preparing for a drama. "He does some acting in Elysium!" Blomkamp responds. Hilarious.
6:26 Thanks to an awkward question, Foster admits that Team America is her favorite Matt Damon movie. Damon admits that he has to sign the puppet head all of the time. The guy at the mic persists about Damon working on Team America. He must be stoned. Damon admits he didn't work on Team America, sadly, but he'd love to collaborate with Trey Parker and Matt Stone. "Those guys are geniuses." Most surreal moment of the panel.
Fans clamor to see the sizzle reel again. They can't show it. And the panel's done. That's all for Sony. On with the Con!