Neill Blomkamp rocked our eyeballs with District 9, so expectations are high for his second movie Elysium. We just attended a press preview, where we saw a brand new trailer, plus some other new footage. Here are our first impressions.
The trailer is a set-up for the entire film, and includes some high quality shots of the lovely living quarters in the space habitat Elysium. Think Halo with swimming pools, and loads of skinny white people. [Side note: we wonder if this is what Blomkamp's Halo would have looked like.]
This also sets the scene for the first We Missed You Neill moment. A gorgeous woman is seen lounging in a Versace-esque body scanner. Whilst she's in the futuristic tanning bed-like contraption, her body is probed by a laser. The machine then announces, "traces of cancer discovered." A new set of lasers glide over the woman, and her skin puckers. It's REMOVING her cancer. "Cancer Free," the machine bleeps (or something akin to that.) I don't know exactly what it said — because I was too busy smashing my face with a hammer out of sheer despair that Neill Blomkamp can't just make all of the science fiction movies right now. All this from a trailer, which will be out tomorrow.
The bulk of the footage that was screened takes place back on Earth, not the luxurious Elysium. As you can imagine, Earth sucks. It's overcrowded with the less-than-desirables who can't afford to pay their way into a better life, among the stars. Earth isn't just an overpopulated mess teaming with sickness and dirt, it's also completely wrecked from (we're assuming) pollution. The only terrain we get a look at is a desert.
The day-to-day life on future Earth is pretty terrible as well. We follow Max (played by the bald Matt Damon) through his dangerous job, where he's constantly badgered, manipulated and has his pay docked. Think In Time, if In Time was actually set in a plausible reality. Max just can't catch a break — but thankfully, with Damon behind the wheel we're already seeing a range of desperation and anger building up behind his sweat-covered brow. Shit is about to hit the fan for Max.
One particularly brilliant moment showcases Max arguing with the frozen face of Elysium's Big Boy-channeling realtor robot. "You seem agitated," the computer says. "Would you like a pill?" And just like that a filthy tray with an assortment of rainbow colored pellets appears. Max is pissed.
But back to the fan-hitting. At work, Max is given an ultimatum when he loses something important inside the machine he operates. Go inside and risk your health to fix the problem, or pack up your shit and leave. Max concedes, and the next thing you know he's trapped in some sort of a Watchmen/Hulk situation. But instead of getting superhuman strength, Max gets a fatal illness. A robot wakes him up, throws a bottle of pills at him and chirps, "You have five days to live, thank you for your service."
This is when things shifts from the crappy middle-class existence to the even dirtier underbelly of Earth's black market. With only a few days to live, Max realizes he needs to get to the sexy tanning beds of Elysium, or die in the dust on Earth. And he's willing to do anything to get there. Cue William Fichtner, and his baller-ass Bugatti spaceship.
All Max and friends have to do is hijack Ficther, download his brocades into Max's brain (which you can see has now been fitted with a little screen), and boom — they can get him into Elysium. In order to battle his rapidly failing health, Max is fitted with the harness that will make him "as strong as a droid." Which, we soon learn, is insanely strong. The droids have the robotic arms that are constantly showering Damon with problems and grenades. The droids are awesome, and if you loved the video-game warfare from District 9, you're gonna love the slomo hellfire of bullets into the faces of the robot attackers.
Not surprisingly in a movie of this sort, the man they plan to rob is much more important to Elysium than this gang originally intended. When they download his brain into Damon's, the code reveals something that can bring down the whole upper-class resort. And the wealthy will hound Max to the ends of the Earth to get this information back.
Jodi Foster, who plays Elysium's Secretary Delacour, unleashes her best weapon: Kruger (Sharlto Copley). Under a hailstorm of bullets, Kruger appears.
Everything else from there is a series of crazy hyper-cuts that mostly showcase Kruger vs. Max (including one bad-ass scene where Kruger pulls out a katana). At some point, it appears that Damon makes it onto Elysium — but not until after copious amounts of blood loss. It's just everywhere, pouring out of his newly mechanized joints.
And that's that. The clock is ticking for both Max and Elysium. We're sure there are plenty more plot twists to come, but the parts that stuck with us the most weren't the acting or dialogue — it was the dirty bioware hellhole that Blomkamp is once again creating in this movie. Everyone is plugged in — as we mentioned earlier, you don't scan a finger, you scan a brain. Wires stitch out names across the faces of the wealthy, while the poor have giant jacks marring their faces. You can even see some sort of plug apparatus on Krueger's face here.
This film looks like it has everything we've been missing in the science fiction world since District 9. We know we're just looking at a carefully assembled collection of footage, and not the whole thing — but hot damn, if it didn't get us excited. Even the hallways of Elysium didn't look like the clean-cut CG sets Hollywood has been churning out, they felt real. No detail is missed: Plants decorate the pristine walls of Elysium (presumably to help the habitat), while dust fills the beards and goggles of the civilians on ruined Earth. It just looks like an awesome street fight in a sand pit of awesome cut with blood and tears and sweat and droid bits. And most importantly, like a whole lot of fun.