'Painting Ridiculous Ideas With The Brush Of Reality': 10 Things We Learned About Elysium

By Eric Eisenberg 2013-04-09 13:38:18discussion comments
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Elysium 2
Don’t expect it to look exactly like District 9
Looking at the sci-fi worlds created in both District 9 and Elysium there is one very important difference: the presence of aliens. The proven existence of extraterrestrials – known as prawns – had a significant effect on Blomkamp’s first feature film, not just in terms of character and story, but on visual aesthetic as well. The presence of otherworldly technology changed how things looked and operated – and its absence in the director’s second effort has helped allow the movie to develop its own look. Similar to how Damon’s character’s exoskeleton was created by Kawasaki, the appearance of today’s world and realistic advances in science had a major effect on the new movie.

“In this case, it's all human western technology thinking,” Blomkamp said. “It's like western Raytheon kind of Lockheed mind that comes up with the stuff in this film whereas, with District 9, all of the thinking was alien and more of an homage to classic sci-fi that I liked, some of which is in films, like Chris Foss' artwork. It's pretty different in here. It's about what a human mind might lead to rather than an alien one.” The same idea extended to approaching Kruger’s ship, which is called The Raven – though he took some liberties with realism in terms of tackling the paint job. “It also has camo. I couldn't think of another vehicle that flies around in space with camo. Am I wrong? Can you think of one? The camo is rad. I don't think there's another one.”

It’s all about blending the ridiculous with reality
Blomkamp certainly kept realism in mind when he was approaching the visual aspects of Elysium, but he also didn’t ignore that sometimes reality includes the absolutely ridiculous. Asked if he actually reached out to any futurists to determine the film’s look he said no, citing that approaching the style in that way would have drastically altered what he was going for. Instead, they approached it so that the visuals would match the themes of the story, notably the opulence of the beautiful, paradise-like space station. “Building a space station with marble and slate is semi not-that-smart,” Blomkamp said laughing. “It’s not really something that you want to do. But the metaphor of Bel Air in space is correct, so you just work towards that.”

Taking a different approach – which he coined as “painting ridiculous ideas with the brush of reality” – he and his team instead chose to take inspiration from the biggest and bizarre elements that actually exist in our world today and build from there using a real world-minded approach. “All the visual effects guys, everything was like if they couldn’t show me reference, if it wasn’t from a mega project like the Yangtze River Dam or some ridiculous expansion bridge in Canada, something of that scale, it didn’t belong in the film.”

There’s a very modest approach to the antagonists
Much like how District 9 served as a metaphor for the horrific apartheid past in South Africa, Blomkamp’s new film also wears its politics on its sleeve, tackling issues like class warfare and immigration. But just like in the real world, nothing is black and white and that goes for the public opinion on the state of global affairs in the space station Elysium as well. “It's a mirror of how the West is now with immigration,” the director told us. “A lot of people want to help out the rest of the world. They want to take that wealth and pour the glass half out to balance it in the rest of the planet. Other people want to close the borders. The people fit into those two camps.”

Enhancing that point is the fact that even the movie’s antagonists are shown with a human side. Talking about Jodie Foster’s character, Kinberg added, “She's got grandkids and kids around. She wants them to live their life in a very nice suburb and genuinely believes she needs to protect them.” Copley’s Kruger, on the other hand, is more pure soldier. Said the actor, “He would be on Elysium, but he has to live here. That's not the politics or about if what happens is fair or whatever. It's just soldiering, like it’s always been.”
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