By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood April 10, 2013 at 12:39PM
At a Comic-Con style presentation this morning at The Grove, we finally caught a glimpse of Neill Blomkamp's "Elysium," the ambitious sci-fi follow-up to his acclaimed indie hit, "District 9," which opens August. 9. The trailer (watch below) and additional 10 minutes of socially-conscious, high-octane action didn't disappoint.
Despite the allure of major stars (Matt Damon and Jodie Foster) and bigger studio toys worth $120 million, Blomkamp has not compromised his personal vision; he's merely broadened his imaginative scope. "Elysium" is a grander version of "District 9," only here the have and have-nots are divided by the wealthy inhabitants of a Bel Air-inspired space station and Earth, which has been reduced to a shambles.
Fittingly, after ushering in the popular dystopian trend with "District 9" in 2009 (and snagging a best picture Oscar nomination), Blomkamp has managed to stay ahead of the competition with his visual brilliance and idiosyncratic storytelling. True to his South African roots, though, the director still embraces such hot button issues as immigration, health care, class disparity, and the environment.
It's 2154 and living on Earth in total poverty is a death sentence. Imagine the South African shanty town horror of "District 9" magnified to almost "Wall-E"-like devastation. Damon plays a bald blue collar worker desperate to get to Elysium (overseen politically by Foster) to save his life. But in exchange for his way out with the aid of grungy military armor, he must get a hold of the secret intel that will help destroy Elysium and save the planet.
"In here and in 'District 9,' proper science was thrown out the window a little bit in favor of metaphor and story," Blomkamp suggested. "Building a space station was like marble and slate [and not the best idea]. But the metaphor of Bel Air in space is correct. So my approach is to start out with something ridiculous and then try and use the most realistic portrayal of the ridiculous as you can. So I'm painting ridiculous ideas with a brush of realism."