Book Review - 'Elysium: The Art of the Film'
A special Limited Edition version of the book is also available.
As a lifelong science-fiction fan, some of my favorite short fiction and novels have dealt with plots of a ruined Earth inhabited by the poor, with the upper classes in a Utopian artificial satellite circling in space just overhead. This is even the plot of a well-known Japanese manga and its anime adaptation, Gunnm (a.k.a. Battle Angel Alita) by Yukito Kishiro. Yet it was never used in any s-f theatrical features.
Elysium, directed by Neill Blomkamp for TriStar Pictures and distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment on August 9, 2013, is an excellent visual presentation of this plot, produced on a reported $100,000,000 budget. And Elysium: The Art of the Film is a superb book-of-the movie. It shows in closeup all of the visual details that went by so fast in the movie that they were little more than subliminal blurs.
Elysium is set in 2159 A.D. (A discrepancy: this book consistently says 2159 A.D.; IMDb and all the movie reviewers say 2154 A.D. Was the year changed in the movie after the book went to press?) The movie takes place in two vastly different locales: Los Angeles, which has become a filthy, overcrowded, predominantly Spanish-speaking super-slum modeled upon the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and the worst slums of Mexico City; and the pristine, futuristic, wealthy, upper-class artificial space environment of Elysium. “Los Angeles” was primarily designed and built by production designer Phil Ivey and the design team of Weta Workshop, in a suburb of Wellington, New Zealand, and Elysium was designed by veteran future/s-f artist Syd Mead. Images of Los Angeles take up pages 24 to 113, and of Elysium pages 114 to 175 of this 176-page book.
Although the futuristic Los Angeles is extrapolated from current Third World slums (it was shot in Mexico City because of security problems with real Third World slums), Elysium called for numerous robots, futuristic weapons and vehicles amidst the grime. The book is filled with conceptual designs, production models, and closeups of the actual robots and military hardware that appear in the film. The Elysium section of the book, on the orbiting Torus space habitat, shows Syd Mead’s original designs and the sets built from them by Weta. Much of Elysium was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia for the aura of lush greenery and floral gardens in which the sets of the estates of the ultra-rich were placed. This section of the book has such details as closeups of the futuristic toys that the children of the ultra-rich play with, which are only seen in the background in the film.