An hour before writer/director Neill Blomkamp's Elysium wowed a packed house at Comic Con 2012, the cast and filmmakers had already opened up about the super secret film - discussing their characters as well as the movie's core storyline.
The cast, which includes stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, and Sharlto Copley, remained cautiously tight-lipped about most elements of the production (despite plenty of buzz surrounding the project); however, their comments should give hungry fans some solid insight into what they can expect from the film - even if they missed the eye-popping Hall H footage reveal.
Once mistakenly thought to take place on a distant planet, recently the central Elysium plot was revealed to follow a clash between impoverished Earthlings left to struggle for survival on a junked, as well as overpopulated, Earth and wealthy residents of Elysium - a pristine space station orbiting the abandoned planet:
It’s a film about an orbital space station called Elysium with the rich living on it. And Earth is diseased and has been left behind with the money and resources having left. It's about Max's journey from Earth to the space station [...] The film definitely has elements of the 'haves' and 'have-nots' and the discrepancy and wealth - that seems to be a widening gap. Hopefully that's woven into the tapestry of the story in what feels like an organic science fiction thrill ride - so that the themes are touched upon in a hopefully fairly realistic, not over-the-top, way.
Elysium set photos and an official image of Matt Damon as Earth resident, Max, hinted at a gritty post-apocalyptic 22nd century world populated with an intriguing blend of cool but crude sci-fi tech (a choice that fans of District 9 should appreciate). Given a much larger budget this round (reportedly four times the cost of District 9), it might have been easy for Blomkamp to get lost in over-the-top visuals instead of grounded drama. Fortunately, it sounds as though the writer/director is set to deliver another reflective and thought-provoking character piece - couched in a smart sci-fi concept.
According to Damon, his character Max has a very straightforward motivation - to keep breathing:
I play a guy on Earth who is someday hoping to go to Elysium. Kind of like everyone on Earth [...] My character is trying to get to the space station because he's dying and he wants to get there because they have, you know, health care. They have these med bays that you lie in and get completely healed. [He's kind of selfish] in a way [...] The first time I met Neill, he gave me this whole graphic novel of different weapons systems and vehicles and I looked at the stuff and told my wife 'there’s no way we’re going to let this get away.' So we planned our whole life around it. The level of detail that went into it was great and, after I saw District 9, Neill went to the top of the list of people I wanted to work with and I feel so lucky it came around to me so quickly.
Similarly, Jodie Foster's character, Secretary Rhodes, is placed on the opposite side of the board - charged with defending the Elysium status quo:
I play a political figure who is very interested in keeping the habitat pure - and trying to safeguard it from those pesky Earthlings.
Of course, just because characters have clearly defined motivations doesn't mean they are flat or underdeveloped - especially when they're faced with another player that's caught somewhere in the middle. In this case, Sharlto Copley's Kruger:
When I read the script, I said to Neill this is the guy I'd want to do. He's a special forces kind of black ops guy that hides out on Earth and essentially works for Jodie's organization. And when Jodie and the other politicians can't solve problems by peaceful negotiation and chats, then they call my guy on earth and he deals with the problems. It was something very different for me. You know, the last time I'd seen a really entertaining villain that I liked was Heath Ledger's Joker and so I thought with this character there was the opportunity to do something that didn't take itself too seriously, he's still very dark and intimidating but hopefully he has a certain level of charisma and entertainment value to present something that audiences have never seen - thanks to Neill. Neill let me do my improv thing as I do every now and then and it really gave me a chance to do something different. Hopefully people will enjoy it.
Later, Copley offered a bit more insight into the mindset his character operates out of - in order to fulfill his (oftentimes violent) obligations.
The key for me in playing a villain was to be able to access two parts of myself because it was very different from roles that I played before. One was kind of growing up in a hard environment in a very dangerous place where I've been involved in violent things happening and seen a lot of violence around me - and been able to be comfortable with the understanding that there is a certain level of violence that exists in the world. And secondarily to kind of almost see the world in quite a black and white way, in the sense that there are people that kind of talk about things and then there are people that actually have to go out and actually execute the things that those people talk about. So the key to my character's emotional state is to do things that aren't necessarily pleasant so that you can all have nice safe little lives. That's his thinking and doing those things can also mess with your head a little bit - but you just enjoy your cappuccinos and lattes and we do our thing. That's where I had come from in order to play someone who does the things that he does.
It should be fun to see Matt Damon back on the screen in another kick-butt role, especially since Jeremy Renner is standing in for Bourne duty this year; however, despite Damon's claims of a "desperate" Max, Copley's Kruger could wind-up stealing the show - especially once viewers get a look at the character in action.
Following Comic-Con 2012, it's easy to imagine that Elysium will have jumped onto a lot of moviegoer's "most anticipated" lists. If you didn't get a chance to check out the Hall H footage of the film in person, head over to our Elysium live blog recap where you can read more about the movie - as well as check out a breakdown of the seven minute video reveal.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more Comic-Con and Elysium coverage as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.
Elysium releases March 1st, 2013.