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The year 2154. The privileged live on Elysium. No poverty. No war. No sickness. The rest of us live on Earth.
An over-populated, ruined planet Earth where two-thirds of the movie is set. Crew filmed some of ruined planet Earth in one of the world’s largest garbage dumps on the outskirts of Mexico City. I passed through it once years ago on a luxury bus to play field hockey against the Mexican national team at a posh country club. We could see countless families living in makeshift cardboard box homes but didn’t stop to breathe in the fecal matter like star Matt Damon did while shooting there. Vancouver director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) and crew had masks and respirators but Damon stood unprotected as the wind from helicopters above sprayed him with bits of garbage and dung.
No wonder his character Max DaCosta wants to leave the shanty towns of 22nd Century Los Angeles and break into the most heavily-guarded place in the universe — the vast, luxurious space station called Elysium orbiting above. Irradiated at his factory job, Max needs to cure himself with Elysium’s high-tech medicine, but Jodie Foster’s head of the Elysium Corporate Authority doesn’t take kindly to illegal immigrants, especially those who crash their spaceship into a one percenter’s garden. Here’s a look at that crash at Kent Hangar field in Vancouver before the VFX were added.
So we have some scoop on what director Neill Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi project Elysium is about, after Collider.com got its hands on an advance sceening ticket which had a detailed plot synopsis. I’d worked out some of the story last summer during the film’s three-month shoot in Vancouver, which I wrote about in my YVRShoots series, but there is still a lot we don’t know.
Elysium turns out to be the name of the vast, luxurious space station constructed by Armadyne where the very rich live in the year 2159 (want-ads for Armadyne popped up at last year’s Comic-Con in San Diego, the start of a viral campaign for the movie). The rest of us– the 99% if you will — live on the over-populated, ruined planet Earth below. A bald, buff Matt Damon is Max (link to first official photo), who takes on the mission to bring equality to these polarized classes. He’s going up against Jody Foster as Minister Delacourt [corrected], a hard-line govenment official, who will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve the grandiose lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium in space (Foster returned for reshoots this spring but not Damon).
Since Matt Damon was seen filming scenes in blue workmen’s garb [corrected] last summer at Vancouver Technical School, Riverview Hospital and out in Delta, could this be how Max is forced to take on the mission? And could this be how Max will save his own life? The Grouse Grinder also spent weeks filming at a mansion facade and temporarily-planted tropical garden on the vast gravel field at Kent and Boundary in Vancouver. The blue rectangles are thought to be a spaceship, the fake palm trees have no fronds, the small piles of sand seem to represent a manmade beachs and huge blue screens ringed the set. Interior scenes were filmed at the other end of Vancouver in a real-life mansion at 51st and Macdonald behind Jurassic Park-sized hedges. I’m now wondering if this mansion is on the Elysium space station, not on Earth as I originally thought.
Published September 26, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome
Updated: April 12, 2013.
Little is known about Vancouver writer and director Neill Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi project Elysium, which has been filming here for the past three months, except that it makes good use of our city’s visual effects expertise and stars a bald, buff Matt Damon as some kind of future being.
It’s not surprising about the visual effects if you know that Neill Blomkamp dabbled in 3D animation and design as a teen in South Africa and then studied it at the Vancouver Film School when his family moved here. After graduation, he worked as a 3D artist for two local visual effects companies, while branching into directing live-action shorts. He returned to his birthplace of Johannesburg to film his Oscar-nominated first feature District 9 about extra-terrestials (“Prawns”) kept in an Apartheid-like government camp. Despite his international success, Blomkamp is still based here and a proud booster of the local film industry. For example, the post-production work on Elysium will be done in Vancouver next year instead of being farmed out overseas like it usually is.
So what is Elysium about? That remains a mystery but “We’re Building the Future and We Need You” signs for a spaceship construction company Armadyne popped up at this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego, part of a viral campaign similar to the one done for District 9 at an earlier Comic-Con. Armadyne dot net is looking for mega-construction engineers, zero g welders, quantum networkers and experts in zero g coupling and multi-generational planning to build a massive space station that can house an entire colony of people — “Taking Mankind into the Future.” Last month I watched Elysium film scenes of a much smaller spaceship, with Matt Damon inside, crash-landing on a mansion facade and lush garden set at a vast gravel field at Kent and Boundary in Vancouver, often used by film crews for green and blue-screen filming. [This turned out to be the Elysium space station where the 1 per-centers of 2054 live.]
The blue rectangles are the spaceship, the fake palm trees have no fronds, and the small piles of sand seem to represent [a beach on Elysium]. Some might complain I’m undoing movie magic with photographs like these, but the contrast