Wondering just what Elysium is? That’s understandable. The name doesn’t exactly spell it out for you. That’s why I asked producer Simon Kinberg (X-Men: First Class) when I spoke with him about director Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to his dazzling District 9, starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, and Sharlto Kopley. I’ll have my exclusive interview with Kopley up soon. In the meantime, here’s what Kinberg had to tell me about the film…
“In its DNA it’s similar to District 9. It’s a social commentary science-fiction movie that covers things like class and immigration, but does it in a futuristic, science-fiction, spaceships-and-robots context.
“The premise is that in the future the earth has become overpopulated and polluted, and the crime rate [has risen]. And so the richest one percent of the people leave earth, and create their own on a space Taurus, [an orbital habitat] called Elysium. So it’s eventually like the greatest suburb of all time in space, and what’s happened is that people from Earth try to illegally immigrate to get on to Elysium. Either to live an illegal life there or just use the medical facilities that they have there that are state-of-the-art next-generation, that can heal things. The story is about one guy, Matt Damon’s character, who gets irradiated in a factory where he works, and has to find a way to smuggle himself – illegally immigrate – up to Elysium, to get healed before he dies. It’s all the complications that ensue in him trying to do the wrong things to get up there.
“I’ve never been around a filmmaker that has as specific and strong a voice as Neill, and so the voice that was ingrained in District 9 is in Elysium too. If you were to talk to Neill about social commentary and politics and whatever, he’d probably be uncomfortable talking about it, because the truth is, for him, he’s just making a kick-ass science-fiction movie. The movies that are his favorite films are not social commentary documentaries from the ‘60s. They’re Alien and Aliens and Terminator. So that’s the aesthetic of the movie, and the vibe and the experience of the movie is that of a fast-paced science-fiction film. Probably for a large percentage of the audience, the experience of the film will simply be as a science-fiction movie. Then there are all the other people in the audience, that understand the themes and the politics that are hopefully subtly woven into the movie.”