It’s the year 2154 and Earth has been ravaged by disease, crime, pollution, war, and famine. The planet has become ruined and overpopulated, its inhabitants are poverty-stricken and suffering. Miles above Earth orbits the man-made space station called Elysium, where the ultra-wealthy reside in a lavish, healthy, crime-free environment far from the hazards of Earth. But Elysium’s idyllic existence is about to be disrupted. Max (Matt Damon), a dying man with only days left to live, embarks on a imperative mission from Earth to Elysium and is outfitted with the tools to see his dangerous mission through.
Elysium, director Neill Blomkamp‘s follow-up to District 9, introduces us to this dystopic Earth and its orbiting space station, Elysium, which is a paradise with lush vegetation, beautiful weather, mansion estates, and medical pods that easily cure people of their illnesses. The creation of the Elysium space station is just one segment contained in the new Titan Books release, Elysium: The Art of the Film by Mark Salisbury (Prometheus: The Art of the Film, Burton on Burton). This 176-page full-cover oversized hardcover contains concept and production art and designs, as well as stills from the film, along with first-hand accounts from the filmmakers, including legendary artist Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Tron).
Here’s 10 Facts About The Elysium Space Station From Elysium: The Art of the Film…
1- The space station in the film is a Torus, or a wheel-shaped orbital space habitat, that’s above Earth, but director Neill Blomkamp said that this particular Torus was not the original concept for the Elysium paradise. While he didn’t divulge what that original concept was – as he wants to eventually use it in another film – he said it was totally different and he didn’t go with it in Elysium because he felt at this time that it wasn’t “visually renderable enough.”
2- The designers chose a 5 “bicycle” spoke design, as there was one with 4 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and while they tried different amounts, in the end, 5 felt right to them.
3- When designing the Elysium space habitat, the artists, including famed concept artist Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Aliens, Tron), put some “real world science behind it,” because Blomkamp doesn’t like “cheating” in that respect, so they tried to figure out where such an object would really orbit and how big it would appear from Earth.
4- The look and feel of the interior of Elysium was based on the posh neighborhood of Beverly Hills, CA, and was meant to be a “Bel Air in space.”
5- Half a million people live on Elysium, a place that is free of war, crime, and disease where billionaires reside, orbiting 75 miles above the Earth.
6- Elysium space station sits on the same orbit as the International Space Station.
7- The space station has two inner rings: one for air purification, the other for telecommunications.
8- “Money doesn’t buy taste,” said Production Designer Philip Ivey, who felt that the billionaires who live on Elysium, although they’d have the money to get whatever they want to put their personal “stamp” on their mansions, what they want might not always be tasteful. Various styles were used, like faux Tuscan and ultra-modern, to make the billionaire homes.
9- The Medical Pods that the citizens of Elysium use to stay young and healthy were modeled on MRI machines, as the filmmakers wanted audiences to look at it and have a sense of familiarity, making it more understandable how these machines would essentially move over the body to heal these people of the future.
10- Scenes in the movie set on the dystopian future Earth were shot differently than those on the luxurious Elysium space station. For Earth, they were shot with hand-held cameras; for Elysium, they used Techno-cranes, dolly tracks, and sometimes Steadicam – basically, everything they could to make the photography seem smooth and gliding.
Above is just a small taste of what’s included in Elysium: The Art of the Film, which delves deep into the world of Elysium. The book is divided up into two parts: EARTH and ELYSIUM. For Earth, we get to see details on the making of the weapons, vehicles, robots, and exo-suits (created by WETA), as well as the neighborhoods, workplaces, and government offices for the planet’s inhabitants. For Elysium, there’s a look at its exterior construction and the interior setting for the privileged class (with their servant robots) as well as areas of government, like deportation transport, the control room, defense, and more.
Director Neill Blomkamp wrote the Foreword to this art book and after going through its hefty pages, it’s obvious how much detail was put into the creation of this future world and its divided society. The accounts provided by the crew involved in the conception and creation of the film are at times complicated in their explanation, which harkens back to them trying to get the science as close as possible. But flipping through this book, it’s the concept and production art that is immediately impressive, including the many 2-page spreads and multi-page fold outs.
If you’re a fan of the film, and are interested in going behind the scenes, Elysium: The Art of the Film is a wonderful companion. I was fascinated by what I learned about the movie and was enthralled by all the imagery, so even those people who feel lukewarm towards film (like our own FamousMonster – see his review) will likely be captivated by Elysium: The Art of the Film.
Elysium opens in theaters today, August 9, 2013. It’s also in IMAX theaters, which after checking out this art book, it’d say the movie will probably look pretty amazing in that format.
[All images © TriStar Pictures Industries, Inc., used with permission.]
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