I want to tell you how amazing Neil Blomkamp’s Elysium will be. I sat in on the panel for the District 9 director’s next project at Comic-Con 2012, and I can’t wipe the fanboy off myself enough to give an accurate appraisal of its awesomosity, but trust me: This movie might change your freakin’ life, and I only saw like nine minutes of it.
While Jodie Foster and Matt Damon (both Comic-Con virgins) were onhand at the show, as was District 9’s Sharlto Copely, the star power really belonged to the movie, not the celebrities. As soon as it started rolling, everything else was forgotten.
Set in a dystopian future, Elysium’s world is all about a sharp line between the haves and the have-nots. The one-percent live in a perfect satellite that orbits earth. There’s no sickness on Elysium. No pain. But the rest of us (that’s you and me) live down here on the planet where everything just sucks, all the time.
On earth, we all basically live in a garbage dump and are overseen by authoritative robots who keep everyone in line. Hero Matt Damon is having none of it. He’s a rebel, with nowhere to rebel, until an accident forces his hand. He has to travel to Elysium to save himself from radiation, and hopefully institute a massive revolution in the style of Metropolis, a film from the 1920s to which Elysium clearly owes a massive debt.
This is classic science-fiction: Big ideas, cool technology, and that distinctive, “grimy CGI” look that Blomkamp is known for. Like all good science fiction, it’s not really about the future, it’s about the present, and promises to do for wealth inequality what District 9 did for racism: Use spaceships and weapons to shine a light on actual problems, and make us think about them in new ways.
You don’t get Blomkamp’s gritty feeling without some sacrifices. The most fascinating part of the panel involved the description of shooting the slum scenes. They were literally shot in a garbage dump, the second largest landfill on earth, near Mexico city. Matt Damon acted atop the pile of waste, while dust storms blew powdered human excrement all over the actors. I gained a new level of respect for Damon, honestly. His attitude was like, “Hey, if being covered in human sh*t is what it takes to make the picture, that’s how I roll.” Big props.
Jodie Foster, for her part, was not covered in crap. She did most of her scenes on a green-screen stage, as she plays one of the rich people. Man, the one-percent get all the breaks.
Anyway, I doubt Elysium needs me to hype it, but check it out when it comes out in theaters on March 1.