Book Review - 'Elysium: The Art of the Film'
The well-written text by Mark Salisbury describes how director Neill Blomkamp, who also wrote the film, worked closely with Phil Ivey and the Weta staff to bring his concepts to reality. Blomkamp, Ivey, and the Weta team were familiar with each other from Blomkamp’s previous s-f film, District 9, which helped a lot. An example from page 76: “Components for Max’s Exo-Suit were manufactured at Weta. Once the design is locked down, and modeled on the computer as an ‘airtight three-dimensional mesh, they can be milled on a milling machine,’ Blomkamp explains. ‘They send it downstairs, mil each of the pieces out and then build the proper suit, fit it to someone and do some more tests. Then there are probably a few more things you’ve got to tweak, but it’s pretty much ready to go. The good thing about Weta – I think they’re the best in the world – is they’ve done this kind of thing so much that they know, ‘These are the pieces that are going to break, and we know for a fact that you’re going to need spares of this, and this.’ So they’ll build that into the budget, and send you like 50 spares of certain pieces, and make some pieces out of tougher urethane, and other pieces that don’t need to be as tough out of a nicer looking material. It’s that kind of practicality that I really like.’”
The careful design of this coffee-table art book extends even to the page numbering. The Los Angeles section of the book has blocky military-stenciled-looking page numbers, while those of the Elysium section are subtle, delicate, and futuristic-looking.
After reading this book, I feel like I know everything about Elysium – except how the VFX scenes were shot. The movie has lots of them, but they are only talked about here, not shown. For example: “CRASH. For the sequence in which Kruger’s Raven crash lands on Elysium, Ivey and his team built a 99 ft wide mansion façade along with gardens and a fountain on location Vancouver. ‘It was a real dream house with white marble floor, white plaster render on the outside,’ recalls Ivey. ‘Funnily enough no one wanted to crash a craft into their real mansion.’ As envisioned in the concept art, the final set showed the Raven scraping through the topsoil to reveal the metallic floor of Elysium beneath. Image Engine provided a CG version of the crashed Raven (left) to replace the bluescreened version on set.” (p. 152) There are three beautiful pictures of the aftermath of the crash, with the model of the mansion and the crashed warship having torn up the garden, but none of the actual VFX.
Still, Elysium: The Art of the Film is a beautiful collection of the imagery of a s-f theatrical feature about a slum Earth with a paradisiacal space habitat orbiting overhead. If you are interested in seeing this concept brought to life, or in the movie Elysium in particular, this book is a real bargain.
This review is of the standard $39.95 edition. There is also a $75.00 Limited Edition, slipcased, signed by Neill Blomkamp, and with a limited edition illustration by Syd Mead.
Fred Patten has been a fan of animation since the first theatrical rerelease of Pinocchio (1945). He co-founded the first American fan club for Japanese anime in 1977, and was awarded the Comic-Con International's Inkpot Award in 1980 for introducing anime to American fandom. He began writing about anime for Animation World Magazine since its #5, August 1996. A major stroke in 2005 sidelined him for several years, but now he is back. He can be reached at email@example.com.