'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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We’ve been waiting a very, very long time for writer/director Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, but these past two days its been coming in full force. Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a special footage presentation for the film in Los Angeles, where an audience filled with both press and fans got an exclusive look at 10 minutes of the new movie, and just a little while ago the first theatrical trailer arrived online. But we’re not done yet.

Following yesterday’s footage reveal, Blomkamp, star Sharlto Copley, and producer Simon Kinberg were kind enough to sit down with film journalists, including myself, and discuss the upcoming sci-fi blockbuster, the footage we had seen. It was an incredibly informative conversation that covered everything from the details of the future world to the exoskeleton that Matt Damon’s character wears, and you can read all of the highlights below!

Elysium actually makes product placement work for it instead of against it
It may be a necessary evil in the world of Hollywood economics, but let’s be real: product placement sucks. Nothing will take you out of a movie or television show quicker than seeing the hand of the studio reaching in and prominently showing soda can labels and fast food chain logos so that some of the blockbuster budget can be alleviated. But in the case of Elysium, it actually wasn’t the studio reaching out to companies for sponsorship, but rather the director.

Talking about the construction of the exoskeleton suit that Matt Damon’s character wears in the film, Blomkamp said that he actually talked to tech and engineering brands about using their names in order to lend his movie a more real feel. “I personally wrote emails to companies that I wanted to try and get into the film to try and add realism to it, and one of my favorite ones is Kawasaki, which is on his suit,” the filmmaker said. “So the idea was it was some kind of very low-end, almost dirt bike, like a motocross version of a strength suit that was born out of research that the military is doing now. Like Lockheed and a bunch of companies have HULC suits that are used for enhanced strength, and I just wanted it to look really grungy and extremely sort of low end and kind of real.”

Sharlto Copley’s character is inspired by some really bad dudes
Matt Damon’s character was certainly the central focus of the extended footage that was shown yesterday, but we did a brief look at Sharlto Copley’s character as well – and he looks like one seriously bad dude. Named Kruger, the villain is a soldier who works for Elysium on the Earth’s surface and tries to maintain order and protect the space station. And for his inspiration both the director and the star looked to some very hardcore individuals, namely Black Ops soldiers who served during the South African border wars of the 70s and 80s. “That unit was called 32 Battalion, and it was guys who could go into the bush and just not come out for like three months,” Copley told us. “It’s a very specific type of soldier, and it’s not like, ‘Ooh, I look so cool with my Oakleys. I’m gonna blast you!’ It’s a different kind of person to deal with.”

It also served as an inspiration for the accent as well, as it was what Blomkamp and Copley eventually landed on when trying to figure out where the character was from. Looking at the character’s scraggly beard, and metal face implants, and sensing his angry demeanor, it’s easy to tell that he is a much different kind of person than District 9’s Wikus van der Merwe.

The film won’t be spelled out for you
One of the biggest traps for filmmakers in science-fiction filmmaking and world building is the exposition dump that comes at the very beginning that sets the audience up with every little bit of information that they need in order to perfectly understand the story. While it’s very possible to handle it artfully, there are more than a few examples in cinema history of how it can go extremely wrong. There’s also the option of putting all of the trust in the hands of the audience and letting them sink or swim. It was certainly a debate within Blomkamp’s mind when he was approaching Elysium.

“I like films that just put you there and you have to deal with it,” the filmmaker began. “So there was an even more aggressive version of the film where the intro was almost non-existent – the film just starts, and it’s like, ‘Oh shit, there’s a space station. Okay,’ and you try and keep up with it. I shot some footage that explained the intro a little bit more, but I decided not to use it.” Part of that was a scene that spelled out how a citizen of Earth would make it to Elysium (noting that it’s “pretty self-selecting”), but at the end of the day that was nixed. “I would say it’s kind of like halfway. There is some explanation, but it’s definitely not over the top. It kind of just begins.”
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