My Extended Look at Elysium [Spoilers]

By Luke Y. Thompson in Movies
Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Yesterday, at noon. I had the privilege of getting a sneak-peek at the trailer you should be seeing below, and more.

We press-types and others who signed up online for free tickets gathered for what we were told was the "very first look" at Elysium, a statement that ignores the ten minutes or so shown last Comic-Con, but whatever.

Host Ralph Garmon introduced producer Simon Kinberg, aka the luckiest nerd on the planet, as he's producing this, X-Men: Days of Future Past and the next Star Wars; director Neill Blomkamp; the movie's villain, Sharlto Copley; and live via satellite from Berlin, Matt Damon, who took the time to say, "Thank you everyone in L.A. for skipping work or school; you're exercising excellent judgment."

About his inspirations, Blomkamp said that " a sci-fi take on the haves and have-nots as a visual difference was really compelling to me." Set in 2154, the movie shows a culture divided between overpopulated, slumlike Earth and the uber-rich space station Elysium where everything is amazing - to ensure a different feel the areas were shot in different locations with different crews: Earth in Mexico, Elysium in Vancouver.

So then they showed us the trailer. Here you go...

Blomkamp described Copley as having "explosive unpredictability," and warned him to stay on script for this movie, so he did, judiciously, but then strenuously objected when Alice Braga went off-book a bit. Ultimately, Blomkamp let him improvise. His character, Kruger, is like a black-ops soldier of the future, embedded in the Earth slums until activated. has a shaggy beard and bits of metal implanted in his bones and protruding from his skin to help him attach military gear, clip-on style.

With the beard, he felt "unstoppable"; at Comic-Con, Kate Beckinsale's security made him step away from the elevator. He says Kruger will have a specific type of South African accent you've never heard before, and feels bad that after District 9, in which he hoped to rehabilitate the image of white south Africans as racists, he's setting them back now: "The South African's the villain...AGAIN!" Asked how Neill was different to work with this time, Sharlto said, "He's a big deal now; he's a lot more bossy...Matt and Jodie [Foster] are like, 'Who are these guys, they've done one movie!'"

We then got to see about ten minutes more of the movie. It opens with a shirtless Damon covered in Tupac-like gangsta tattoos. On the way to work, he makes the mistake of being sarcastic with robot cops (they look like a cross between '50s tin toys and the prawns from District 9 - blocky yet skeletal) - they ask him what's in his bag, and the bald Damon says "Hair care products, mostly." So of course they beat him up and tell him to report to his parole officer.

Said parole officer is a smiley faced automaton which, like everything else in this world, has been graffiti-tagged. It automatically pops up a plate of pills when it senses Damon might be stressing too much.

Then the parole meeting makes him late for work, and to avoid getting fired he volunteers for a dangerous job that - for reasons not entirely clear - traps him in a radiation area and gives him terminal cancer. His only hope is Elysium, where they have machines that cure it in a second - but it costs a billion dollars to go.

Separately, we see dirty, slummy spaceships take off for Elysium, and the control folks in the station (led by Jodie Foster, who I could've sworn was Helen Mirren for a split-second) take note of the "undocumenteds" who dare approach.

Foster: "Activate Kruger."

Back on earth, Kruger (Copley) emerges with a massive rocket launcher. He fires it, launching mini-missiles which go all the way into space and take the ships down.

Not having a billion dollars, Damon seeks a more illegal way to get into space - all he has to do is kidnap a rich businessman (William Fichtner) and download the knowledge from his brain. To do this, and to give him the strength he needs to counter the cancer, he gets that exoskeleton from the poster drilled into his body. It enhances his abilities to the level of a robot.


We saw a little bit of the action sequence in which Damon and co kidnap the Fichtner character - who speaks in a weird cadence not unlike the way he talked in Wrong - and Kruger shows up with heavy weaponry. It looked a lot like District 9, and frankly I'm amazed (and happy) nobody forced a 3D conversion here - one money shot in which a robot is smashed to pieces seemed tailor-made for it. Anyway, it seems that what lies inside Fichtner's head are the access codes to override Elysium completely.

Then a whole bunch of quick cuts with action before the fade to black.

At a mini-press conference afterward, Blomkamp and Copley shared a few more tidbits with us:

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