After showing the press footage from his new film at the Arclight in Hollywood, as well as the Elysium trailer hours before it premiered to the world, visionary director Neill Blomkamp talked about his latest creation. The mastermind behind the Oscar-nominated District 9 has crafted a whole new world with Elysium, starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley.
Elysium showcases a time that mirrors our have and have-nots world, albeit heavily amplified. The planet has fallen into disarray ecologically, economically and those who have the money (i.e. the uber wealthy) have escaped to an orbiting spaceship paradise called Elysium.
Damon is an Earth-bound individual who has learned he is sick and the only cure lies above the planet on Elysium. He is determined to get there, regardless of the cost… and we don’t mean finances. As seen in the Elysium poster, he dons an exoskeleton suit and attempts to infiltrate the world where violence, poverty and most importantly all illness have been extinguished.
After seeing the footage, Blomkamp was asked how to create buzz for a film without giving away too much.
“I try to show as little as I can. The thing is, 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,” he said and laughed.
“Rationally, I understand that people have to get to know about the film and word has to get out there. Personally, I don't really like it. It's part of how the system works. I tried to limit as much as I could. I didn't win, completely.”
Blomkamp crafted his story before, during and after he made District 9. But there was a societal moment that happened that could have been seen as inspiration for Elysium -- the Occupy movement -- but it was not. "Hopefully it didn’t impact it at all. I think that, if there are topics that are just on people’s minds, things manifest into reality out of the sort of global consciousness of being aware of those topics,” Blomkamp admitted.
Blomkamp has a clear societal message in Elysium, but he also cautions that it is a summer movie and should also be taken as such -- but, if a raised consciousness moment arises, all the better.
“I think that in the realm of commercial, popcorn cinema the amount of message or smuggling of ideas you can get in there is quite limited. Like if you think you’re going to make a difference or change anything you’re on pretty dangerous, thin ice,” he said.
“If I wanted to make something that actually made a difference 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.”
The moment the first Elysium stills arrived, questions permeated the movie fan world as to that apparatus that Damon wears that allows him to go into Elysium. Blomkamp thought it would be funny if he reached out to companies to see if any would be willing to do a NASCAR-type product placement on his star’s metallic frame.
“I personally wrote emails to companies that I wanted to try and get into the film to try and add realism to it. One of my favorite ones is Kawasaki, which is on his suit! The idea was that it was some kind of very low-end, almost dirt bike, like a motocross version of a strength suit that was born out of research that the military is doing now,” Blomkamp said.
But, the director cautions that the exoskeleton suit serves a specific purpose. “He’s sick in the film, so it makes him stronger, but it doesn’t make him Iron Man strong.”
We wondered if in his film, citizens on Earth have any opportunity to legitimately get to Elysium. Like, can the entrepreneur make his money and elevate to the paradise floating above the planet? “It's all money. If you have the money, you can,” he admitted. “You can get citizenship for, like, a billion dollars. It's pretty self-selecting as far as who goes up.”