Luke Y. Thompson is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of Comic-Con.
The most-anticipated moment of the Sony panel was easily the presentation of Neil Blomkamp‘s Elysium, and it did not disappoint, looking like a 2001/District 9 hybrid, or maybe even Wall-E with humans. It’s another stylish sci-fi class-struggle parable with Matt Damon as a shaven-headed working-class guy on an overpopulated earth (downtown LA is shown covered with tent encampments, even atop the skyscrapers). He was inadvertently exposed to toxic radiation and given a mechanical exoskeleton to help him capture a rich bureaucrat played by William Fichtner and infiltrate Elysium, an off-world space station created for the richest 1%, where disease can be eradicated and everything is perfect. Sharlto Copley’s also in there as a crazy bearded dude with a personal force-field. Robotic cops look not unlike the District 9 bugs. It feels like a potential smash. The footage shown had rough, unfinished effects but it didn’t matter. Panelists were Blomkamp, Jodie Foster, producer Simon Kinberg, Copley (hugely cheered by this crowd) and Damon. Copley revealed that his character is a villain, which wasn’t evident in the clips. He also begged fans to ask Blomkamp for a District 9 sequel, joking that he’s still looking for work.
Asked about the difficulty of his role, Damon noted that the reality is that acting is what they really love, and even when it’s hard, it’s great — and that the hardest part was when he was looking for work and no acting challenge compares to that. When asked about her “technique”, Foster ventured that as with her movie Nell, for example, “I don’t know how good the movie was … but what I realized was that I just needed to drink coffee and show up.”
Elysium shot quite a bit in Mexico City to really bring out the feel of poverty. Blomkamp said he felt the crew in Vancouver, who took the trouble to wear masks for paint fumes, really didn’t appreciate how bad real poverty smelled. He described s “sandstorms” that were mostly fecal matter. Damon said “I just tried not to think about it”. The cartoonish robot prop shown earlier at the booth in the hall is an automaton bureaucrat that deals with Damon’s consumer complaints.
As they usually do at these things a fan asked about something completely different. Regarding his work on the Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s puppet movie Team America: World Police, he said “Some people say that’s my best performance. At autograph signings, I’ve signed more puppet pictures.” He said he wishes he could take credit for that. “Those guys are geniuses.”
The Sony panel kicked off with Resident Evil: Retribution, moderated by Ralph Garman of KROQ. He introduced director Paul W.S. Anderson, who said “We really wanted to blow out the franchise for the fans … really truly deliver a post-apocalyptic epic.” He said the movie is as big as possible in terms of scale, but as small as possible when it comes to Milla Jovovich’s character arc.
He showed a new trailer, which emphasized the suburban delusional intro, and the returning monsters, including a giant “licker” and various zombies whose mouths explode fourfold. But no more clips. Not even the Wondercon fight footage? Disappointing.
Panel members were Mika Nakashima (who doesn’t speak English), Boris Kodjoe, Oded Fehr, Michelle Rodriguez (biggest cheer, and she seemed very enthused), and Jovovich. A clip was shown with what was promised as a climax a long time coming – Alice versus Jill Valentine, including Rodriguez, who injects some kind of critter into her neck before the fight begins.
A fan dressed as Buzz Lightyear asked Rodriguez if she would have sex with him, and she said he reminded her of a guy who once did something unspeakable in her backyard. She called the cops on him but approached with a samurai sword in one hand and a gun in the other. She gave props to Milla in The Fifth Element for inspiring her as a kickass woman. Jovovich said “Screaming and being suburban Alice – that for me was horrifying. It’s so much easier to have a machine gun”.
As he did at Wondercon, Anderson emphasized that this movie is the beginning of the end, with a lot of major character deaths – the next one may be the last. Fehr jokingly imagined the pillow talk that could ensue from talk of ending it.
Total Recall was up next, with KROQ’s Garman claiming “it was one of the most anticipated movies from last year’s Comic-Con.” Way false. But Len Wiseman (with perfectly mussed hair), Bryan Cranston, Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale still got cheers. Farrell allowed that, concerning Arnold Schwarzenegger comparisons, “The film felt different enough that I could make it my own.”
I thought the footage shown looked more like a remake of Blade Runner than Total Recall, although some scenes were familiar – Farrell trying to sneak through customs with a false face as another woman who looked like Arnold’s character in disguise made it through, and a variation of Schwarzenegger sticking the probe up his nose has become Farrell cutting an embedded cell phone out of his hand. But no Kuato apparent. It looked very expensive.
Cranston had a funny moment by pranking the Con’s sign-language translator, saying “douchebag” to see how it is signed. He seemed happy to learn it. Farrell, on the appeal of the character: “Maybe I’ve spent a long portion of my life not knowing who I am”. Beckinsale compared stepping into Sharon Stone’s shoes to different versions of Shakespeare, which is a bit of a stretch.
Wiseman confirmed that this movie does not go to Mars. Asked by a fan if he thought about retaining his accent a la Arnold, Farrell responded, “Wait. Can I do it again? I did think about messing around with an Austrian accent for about seven minutes.” Said he was dubious about two remakes in a row, but Len’s concept art drew him in. He joked that he had no idea what Len had used to lure wife Beckinsale in. What was it like filling Arnold’s shoes? “Airy.” Less one-liners for him.
Cranston observed that “I was training a lot in the bar. Len and I would drink a lot and then we’d come up with our character.” Says his motivation is not to kill Farrell’s Quaid, but just wants him to behave. Farrell joked that the Rekall set felt like an opium den, and he felt very at home there. As the panelists left, some fans called out “Arnie sucks!” (none of them were booing him yesterday, though.)
Next came Looper, with director Rian Johnson, Emily Blunt, and Joseph Gordon Levitt who got a huge cheer. Then there were boos when it’s announced that Bruce Willis can’t be there, which turned to cheers when the audience is informed it’s because he’s shooting A Good Day To Die Hard.
Johnson said he came up with the time travel story 10 years ago, hugely inspired by Philip K. Dick. He also said he wrote the part for Gordon-Levitt, which JGL says is the first time that ever happened. Blunt was secretive about her part, but joked about JGL being “a pussy” for not killing his future self.
A package of clips showcased a CGI futurescape, a tense and sarcastic exchange between JGL and future self Willis, with the revelation that Jeff Daniels’ character is from the future and hires JGL (he advises him to escape to China rather than France, knowing what’s coming) and Blunt seemingly levitating a cigarette lighter.
Citing Blunt as a counter-example, Gordon-Levitt opined that “Let’s face it: most pretty girls aren’t funny. Because they don’t have to be.” He also said it struck him how soft-spoken Bruce Willis was, because he doesn’t have to speak loudly. He also allowed that “I didn’t work out for shit on this movie.” Blunt called it the best movie she’s ever been a part of.