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What Neill Blomkamp’s Upcoming Sci-Fi Film ELYSIUM is About

So we have some scoop on what director Neill Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi project Elysium is about, after 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.

So what about the 99%? Casting sessions at the Creekside Community Centre last July sought a large number of Mexican and Hispanic people of all ages to work as paid extras in the movie. They wanted people who could look like blue collar workers (illegal immigrant workers on the Elysium space station?) and others who could look like East L.A. gang members, preferably with tattoos, piercings, long hair or shaved heads. I photographed some of the beefy, bald, tattoed extras  in Surrey’s Bear Creek Park, either walking or being ferried in little golf carts by burly teamsters to and from the  inaccessible set behind a ridge of trees on the other side of the creek in Bear Creek Gardens.

I’m hoping that we learn more about Elysium at this year’s Comic-Con, preferably with a panel presentation. [Update: An Elysium panel with director Neill Blomkamp and stars Matt Damon and Jody Foster will be part of  Comic-Con’s Sony Pictures panels & screenings: 4:35 to 6:35 p.m. on July 13th in Hall H.]

Elysium has an estimated budget of $115-million and is expected to be in theatres in March, 2013.

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