Out of this world: Hollywood stars promote ‘Elysium’

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Out of this world: Hollywood stars promote ‘Elysium’

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In “Elysium,” the Earth’s rich have moved to a giant satellite above the planet. Provided by Sony Pictures

Visiting Korea for the first time, actors Matt Damon and Sharlto Copley touched down in Seoul Tuesday to woo local moviegoers to their sci-fi blockbuster, “Elysium,” coming to local theaters Aug. 29.

Although the two actors’ charms were in full force, the Sony film will no doubt face some stiff competition, such as Kim Sung-soo’s killer-disease tale “The Flu” and Bong Joon-ho’s epic “Snowpiercer.”

“Snowpiercer” and “Elysium” in particular have curiously similar stories - futuristic fantasies about the divide between the rich and poor.

But where “Snowpiercer” imagined a frozen world 17 years into the future, director Neill Blomkamp jumped all the way to 2154 for his dystopic vision of a ruined Earth.

Blomkamp made his name with the surprise hit “District 9.” But in “Elysium,” he has a full Hollywood-sized budget to work with.

This time, he envisions a world that has become inhabitable, prompting the wealthiest residents to start life anew on Elysium, a satellite settlement in orbit above the Earth.

Damon plays Max, one of the lowly have-nots stuck on Earth. But after he comes down with a terminal case of cancer, Max is determined to make it to Elysium, where they have the technology to cure him.

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Sharlto Copley, left, and Matt Damon Provided by All That Cinema

Copley plays Kruger, an evil villain whose job is to make sure that Max never makes it off-world.

The film also boasts Jodie Foster playing a cold-hearted government official, very similar to the eccentric villain played by Tilda Swinton in the “Snowpiercer.”

Much as Bong’s film opened strong in Korea earlier in August, “Elysium” landed in the No. 1 spot in its North American opening last weekend, earning $29.8 million.

Korea is actually the only promotional stop in Asia for Damon. But the star said the studio’s choice to come here wasn’t a shock.

“Everybody in America knows that it’s a huge market, and a growing market, so I wasn’t surprised,” said Damon.

It’s “the land of Gangnam Style,” joked Copley.

And if Korean audiences’ response for “Snowpiercer” is anything to go by, then “Elysium,” with its strong social and political overtones, will no doubt hit a chord.

But despite the class-heavy story, the two leads claim that Blomkamp’s latest offering isn’t a political film.

“More than anything, he wants the film to be entertaining,” said Damon.

“Very much like ‘District 9,’ you can enjoy it as a piece of entertainment,” Damon said. But for those who want, “you can think about it thematically.”

Having known the director a long time, Copley added that, although Blomkamp does love satire, there was no need to draw parallels to the Obama administration, as some have done in the United States. “People tend to take the message they want from the film,” said Copley.

Although known for his vocal opinions - last week he expressed his displeasure with Obama, saying the president “broke up” with him - Damon stressed that he didn’t believe he had the kind of power to change belief systems.

“I don’t see how much power people in Hollywood have,” he said, adding that whatever power Hollywood has is arbitrary and hinges on the celebrity of the moment.

For Damon, the interest in “Elysium” was purely Blomkamp. “I’ve seen the film ‘District 9,’ which I thought was a brilliant film,” said Damon. “It was beautifully directed.”

So when the opportunity arose to work with the South African director, Damon jumped at the chance.

“At this point in my career, I almost entirely base my decision on who’s directing the film,” he said.

And despite Blomkamp being just 33 years old and this being just his second feature, Damon said he had no doubt about Blomkamp’s future.

“I’ve just gone with the director I believe in,” he said.

BY CARLA SUNWOO [carlasunwoo@joongang.co.kr]

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