Welcome to the year 2159, in which two very distinct classes of people exist: The absurdly wealthy, who live on a vast and lush man-made space station called Elysium, and the impoverished and doomed citizens of Earth, who battle it out each and every day for survival. This is Elysium.
After Hollywood.com caught ten glorious never-before-seen minutes of writer and director Neill Blomkamp (District 9)’s next sci-fi action flick on Monday, we picked our jaws up off the sticky theater floor and chatted with Blomkamp about his upcoming cinematic adventure starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. Here are 10 brand new facts we gleaned from his press Q&A:
1. The Perfect Average Joe: Matt Damon plays Max, a down-on-his-luck Earth citizen who, despite his multiple felonies and arrests, is someone for whom the audience instantly roots. He’s an everyman who uses sarcasm and quick-witted insults as a way to alleviate the stress of living in poverty and filth. The 10 minutes of footage gave us a glimpse of a potential love interest for Max in Fray (Alice Braga), a former friend who has achieved her dreams of becoming a nurse — but keep in mind that romance takes a back seat to action, thrills, and kills in this dystopian flick.
2. Miraculous Recoveries: Elysium is a truly breathtaking sight to see — imagine the world of Halo but with plenty of crystal clear swimming pools and gorgeous model-esque citizens. In one scene, a perfect 10 of a woman emerges from her swimming pool and lays in what appears to be a tanning bed. However, in a jaw-dropping twist, the sleek machine is actually scanning her body for cancer and subsequently removing any toxins from her body. Blomkamp says, “Elysium is a slight mirror of how the West is now with immigration. A lot of people want to help out the rest of the world and they want to take that wealth and pour the glass on half of them and kind of balance them with the rest of the planet, and the other people want to put up walls and close the borders and so the people that run Elysium fit into those two caps.”
3. Ready, Set, Go! Fans will not get a full explanation as to what happened to Earth or how Elysium came to be. Blomkamp reveals he enjoys shocking audiences with abrupt beginnings in his films, saying, “I like films that just put you there and you just have to deal with it. There as an even more aggressive version of the film where the intro was almost non-existent — the film just starts. I shot some footage that explained the intro a little more but I decided to not use it.”
4. Here and There: The settings for the film are split between the two worlds: The impoverished Earth — captured on film in the outskirts of Mexico City, Mexico — and the pristine Elysium, shot throughout various parts of Canada. Blomkamp says there is a clear distinction between the two worlds in the film. “Definitely the majority of the film takes place on Earth, but it’s probably two thirds Earth and one third Elysium,” he says. “The whole aspiration of the protagonist is to get there so we wanted to sort of save that for the end.”
5. Life or Death Desperation: Max is desperate to reach Elysium after a fatal accident at work plagues his immune system. In one of the film’s most adrenaline-pumping moments, Max is accidently locked inside a toxic metal chamber and exposed to unknown poisons. However, rather than receiving superpowers like most sci-fi flicks love to portray, Max is doomed incurable as a work droid tosses him a bottle of pills and matter-of-factly reveals, “You have five days to live, thank you for your service.” The only place that can surely cure Max of this lethal turn of events is Elysium.
6. The Next Iron Man? In order to help save his life and fulfill his quest to get to Elysium, Max agrees to undergo experimental surgery to have a strength apparatus fused into his body. “The idea was it was some very low-end kind of a dirt bike or like a motocross version of a strength suit that was born out of research that the military is doing now,” Blomkamp explains. Max’s Kawasaki suit gives our protagonist immense power, but Blomkamp says it is not to be confused with another type of cinematic body armor. “He’s sick in the film so it kind of makes him stronger, but it doesn’t make him Iron Man strong. I’m trying to do it semi-realistically,” he says.
7. District 9 Roll Call: Blomkamp’s District 9 prodigy Sharlto Copley takes on an incredibly unique character named Kruger, an Elysium soldier who is sent to live on Earth and protect the elite citizens from the war-prone miscreants that wander the world. Whether or not we can classify Kruger as an enemy or ally is still to be determined, but we do know Kruger will get a similar badass strength suit in the film. Blomkamp reveals, “[Kruger] has one later on in the film that is a bit more advanced then the one [Max] in the film has. It’s a little bit more complex and a little bit newer, but they’re born out of the same idea.”
8. Futuristic Yet Familiar: Blomkamp wanted Elysium to appear futuristic but still maintain ties to the world we live in today. For example, the highly advanced citizens of Elysium still write on paper, even though in the year 2159 the need for paper would be completely unnecessary. “My approach is always start off with something ridiculous and then try to use the most realistic portrayal of the ridiculous as you can,” Blomkamp says. “It’s kind of like I’m painting ridiculous ideas with the brush of reality.”
9. More Money, More Power: There is no lottery or selection process for a citizen of Earth to move up into the privileged world of Elysium — it’s all based off one important thing: Money. Blomkamp explains, “You just buy citizenship so, I mean, if you have the money you can. That was a part of the stuff that we shot [for the intro] that we didn’t use. You can get citizenship for like a billion dollars, so it’s a pretty self-selecting for who goes up.”
10. Penny For Your Thoughts: William Fichtner’s character, Carlyle, is an extremely important asset in Max’s quest to secure a spot amongst the Elysium elite. Blomkamp says, “He’s basically just a billionaire who’s uninterested in the sort of small people that get in the way of him making a profit and … he acts with almost no emotion.” Max and his gang of badass miscreants set out to rob Carlyle of something extremely important: his thoughts. After a heart-pounding whirlwind of a scene, Max downloads the man’s thoughts into his own brain and quickly discovers a code that reveals something that can bridge the gap between the two worlds. Unfortunately for Max, the powerful will stop at nothing to steal this information back — even if it means they need to kill everyone in his path.
Elysium hits theaters Friday August 9, 2013.
Follow Leanne on Twitter @LeanneAguilera