The “Elysium” story part 3: Designing robots

One of the real joys of the film is the realistic and thoughtful design process that the props and vehicles went thru, and perhaps one of the best examples of this is the robots.

Originally as we discussed in part 2 of this series the “Elysium” film was going to be made on a smaller budget using humans in costumes to portray the robot guards and sentry’s. Here is an early example of this.

which later on became this:

before becoming the final version that was used in the film:

Elysium_Droid2_PEARCEBut, even then this version was subtley tweaked when the original puppet versions, and static robots used in the Armadyne factory had to be changed when the design was altered again after the footage had been shot. This meant CGI changes were overlaid over the top of the original filmed robots.

A good example of this is the gold robot that Max attacks in the desert. Originally the robot was one of the 19 made for production by Weta of New Zealand and had arms that could be removed, along with a specially made head that turned 90 degrees and then pulled away with fake sparking cables, oil pouring from leads and other physical effects built into it like working fans that spun. Of the other 18 robots, 10 were background robots, 7 were hero for Max to work on in the factory with removable chestplates etc, and one was a “Homeland” variant in red.

The gold version see with its head being removed by Matt Damon was made in New Zealand, transported to Mexico and then altered with CGI in Vancouver.

Matt Damon on set with director of the film

                                         Matt Damon on set with Joe Dunckley of Weta

One of the main things to look for is the shoulder graphics and slightly different head design. The orange cross made of tape on the arm socket was for CGI placement of the arms. This variant also had a metal backplate that was designed to bear the stress of being laid on the back of the pickup truck for the sequence.

Matt Damon stars as Max in TriStar Pictures' ELYSIUM.In the end the physical props were used in quite a few shots but were never mechanized. Any movement as such was done with CGI.

Robots being built at Weta Workshop

                                           Robots being built at Weta Workshop

The robots were made using cad files and the parts 3d printed and molded. The entire list of parts came to over 700 and they simply snapped together or bolted like a giant lego set. These are the 7 hero factory models produced.

WetaProps10Below is the hero red “Homeland” variant that was taken on display Summer 2013 to Comicon.

Red Hero "Homeland" robot

                                                 Red Hero “Homeland” robot

Watch more of various sequences from the film here.


The “Elysium” story part 2: The script & studio intervention

One of the reasons that the movie has in some way “failed” fans of the directors first film “District 9″ is a belief that the production is flawed for a number of reasons.

Reading various comments on the forums it seems that people didn’t like the story, more than the look of the film which has been universally praised. Of the story elements people have complained about the “political” nature of the film being too shallow and an obvious riff on todays politicians, that the characters are one dimensional, and that it suffered from a lack of subtlety and convenient plot details. Whilst these perceptions may be true the script as it originally stood was probably much better in the beginning. This is typically changed as the demands of time and budget can change a production at its very core. As is the case with “Elysium”.

Neill Blomkamp’s original script which may or may not have been stolen in part or wholly from another writer certainly packs in the conventions of previous sci-fi films. Thanks to the artists who worked with him on the movie we can easily get a better idea of the scenes that are missing from the film.

Originally Max was far more evil having a curve that took him from being hated by the audience to the point where he sacrifices himself for Frey and humanity. This was removed by MRC, the company who put money into the film to make Matt Damon’s character more likeable. This is one of many changes made to the film against I presume the directors wishes to make the film more commercially viable. Im guessing that the test audience figures didn’t come back too well on this originally.

Is this an early image of “unlikeable” Max. I think so.

Kruger was also meant to have many sides of him until he was made almost completely evil in the film as shown. He had a love for the way of the Samurai even going as far to own a sword and have a costume that echoed his “way of the sword” which included a stealth cloak, and not the nubby cape he has now, claw boots for climbing up the sides of buildings and other cool gadgets, most of which was made by WETA.

Original Kruger costume from early first Max meeting sequence.

The three pairs of claw boots sold in the Ebay auctions were from this suit.

Original art showing the Ninja costume being worn on the Raven heading to “Elysium”. Crowe or Drake original costume design is in the background. The whole tone is more sic-fi than military.

Several props were designed, made by Weta and then didn’t make it into the film either. Here are some examples.

smg 1

Smg with no forward handle for Crowe. Unused.

                                         Original early Chemrail design

Originally Crowe, the mercenary of Kruger had a railgun mounted onto his costume. This is why there are giant batteries mounted onto his vest. The test version of this was sold for $2,000 on ebay even though never used in the film.

When Max was on Elysium he would be kept in a holding cell with other inmates that had implants grafted into their body that had been deactivated.

                                                Deleted scene in prison with Max

Another HUGE idea for the movie was Max would fatally injure Kruger, only for him to be brought back with his brain inside a giant military robot, a complete rip-off of course from “Robocop 2″.

                                                             Kruger and Max face off.

The giant robot, 3 times as tall as Max would then fight the Homeland security and tearup part of Elysium before Max finished it off.

Originally the budget being lower, the idea was to put men in robot suits, or partial costumes and this was the result. I’m very glad that didn’t happen.

                              Original robot design for a “man in suit” approach.

Here is an example of a gun that was omitted from the film. Sold during the VIP auctions on ebay this gun was to be used by Carlyle, even a special pocket was built into his suit jacket for it to be kept, but sadly it wasn’t used and hit the cutting room floor.

This was Carlyle’s customised gold-plated, ivory gripped personal weapon that was filmed but didn’t survive the edit. On the right is some of the patternwork I drew for the engraving, I referenced currency iconography and poison ivy cos he is rich and bad. Deep!

Another item just sold on ebay was “projector Pal”. This was made by WETA for Frey’s daughter but again never seen on screen.

projector palSo, the end of the film comes with the hospital ships landing on Earth. Again this was a late entry to the film requested by MRC.

With so many changes both big and small its pretty evident that the film was a struggle to edit all the way down the line. Perhaps then its not hard to see where the problems are at the end of the day. The elements presented here just reinforce what a well designed film “Elysium” is…and how it really should have been left alone, the directors vision ultimately tampered with too many times.

With thanks to Aaron Beck, Christian Pearce, TyRuben Ellingson, Ben Mauro and all the creative forces behind “Elysium”.

Drakes (Brandon Auret) costume from “Elysium” display


Im extremely proud to be able to show off this almost complete Drake costume ensemble worn by Brandon Auret who confirmed on twitter a number of interesting facts about it.

First up that there were 3 vests (2 hero/1 stunt), and according to the auction about 7 costumes,  most of which were damaged with blood and tears during production. The stunt vest was sold during the MRC/VIP auctions. It appears one was kept by the Director of the film.There were 3 sets of leg and shoulder armor, two of which were sold as being “generic” pieces.

The full breakdown is hero #1 costume, hero armor, hero #2 vest, hero boots, hero non firing Chemrail, stunt taser in hero holster. The only thing missing is the helmet…..which to be honest I never liked that look. The completist in me wonders where it went….but it seems to have disappeared probably with vest #1.

I should also mention the camo was made especially for the film and is not off the peg per the costume designer.

Anyway. Thanks to Brandon for the information. Hope you enjoy the picture.


Bonhams/Turner Classic movies Entertainment auction November 2013

Things started off very slow with quite a few items not meeting reserve including the Laurel and Hardy Bowler hats. The vintage stuff just didn’t seem to bring the interest….unless it was attached to a real star name. In the case of the hats I can only guess it was overvalued or the provenance wasn’t good.

Shirley temples jacket went for $21,250 including premium. from the movie Poor little rich girl generating alot of interest.

A pair of western costume replica ruby slippers sold for an astonishing $35,000.

The Annie clapperboard (Lot 72) sold for a surprising $2000, compared to the $500 expected, showing the revised interest these past few years in production used items from behind the scenes.

Lot 88 the costume worn by Bette Davis in “The Private lives of Elisabeth and Essex” failed to sell despite “lots of interest”.

Vivien Leigh’s nighty from “Gone with the wind” sells for $45,000 to bidder 4029.

The car from “Casablanca” sells for $461,000 including premium.

Robert Shaw’s costume from the Sting, a truly beautiful piece goes for $3800.

The new auctioneer definitely has a bit more energy than the younger chap.

Two beautiful costumes from Shakespeare in Love are wedged in the auction here. Kind of expected them later on. The lots 130-131 expect to bring in $5,000…exactly what they went for years ago in the Premiereprops sale. Alot of interest by internet, phone and room bids on the dresses. Lucy is name dropped, one of the entertainment departments officials. Sold for $7500 to bidder 5600.$8500 for the second to the same bidder in the room with a paddle.

A hat from “Funny face” worn by Audrey Hepburn sells for 3-4 times its estimate at $87,500 with buyers premium.

It blows my bidder that 5600 keeps scooping up stuff. Remember the golden rule. It only needs two bidders to make an auction.

Charlton Hestons cloak from Ben Hur takes 4 minutes to sell..but still goes to bidder 5600. This seems like a very one note auction bidder wise…..shakes head.

Slowly but surely moving towards modern times. Auction has been running 3 hours and we are at lot 209. If it was Premiereprops it would be lot 60….sigh. Bonhams reports that no online bidding for the “Maltese Falcon” will be alowed. Telephone, bid on the books or in the room only!

Lot 213…beautiful production art from “Blazing Saddles” busts its reserve of $200 and rockets to 4 times that.

Kevin Costners saddle for $3500 to…you guessed it. 5600.

Beautiful shirt from “Easy Rider” at $11,000…and sells to bidder 4984.

Susan Sarandon “Thelma and Louise” hat at $2800 and is passed.

The Falcon is coming up……Sells for $3,500,000

Nautilus helmet from “20,000 Leagues” sells for 65k.

Mia farrow nightgown from “Rosemarys” baby fails to sell.

Devils tower from “Close Encounters” fails to sell.

“Dune” costume worn by Paul Atredies sells for $3,000.

The more modern stuff isnt doing the business I thought. Both Batman and the joker fail to sell. The riddlers cane for $9375 with BP,a Gotham taxi plate for $1500, Robins suit from “Batman” tanks as does “Forrest Gump”.  Only the Indy whip makes a splash at $10,000 including Buyers premium.

Well my wrap up is pretty much simple. It seems the auction was geared very much to sell the “Maltese Falcon”. The other items were part of the train but most failed to garner the attention the dingus did. This really made the modern pieces suffer and quite a few of the non star pieces. Artwork surprisingly held well.

Well thats about it. Hope you enjoyed this quick check in with the event.

“Ted” hero prop water pipe prop

Whilst my views on drugs aren’t really the point of a blog like this personally Im not interested in them, unless its a nice Advil.

Having said that a movie prop….that’s kind of my thing so when a chance to own this very iconic piece of memorabilia from the movie “Ted” came up….well….how could I resist.

In fact I wasn’t the only one to say YES as the original VIP movie auction where the sister of this piece sold for around $1,000 was well known about in July/August of 2012 when the movie played in theatres….and then popping up again in March 2013 of this year only to sell in a Premiereprops auction for $3500. Here is that description:

A lot a parents were rather surprised when they took their kids to see “Ted”, a movie about a man and his talking teddy bear, thinking Disney, and instead finding themselves in the middle of a Cheech and Chung flashback! Especially when the movie starts with the huggable Ted (the stuffed bear), getting righteously high on some good chronic using a water-bong and talking opening about the sexuality of the female race! However, if the audience didn’t immediately run for the aisle, they discovered that this Seth MacFarlane directed and co-written fable starring Mark Wahlberg (with Seth himself doing the voice of Ted), is filled with warmth and humor and a wonderful message for all ages, not to mention creating a “Christmas miracle” at the end! This is the actual screen used “paraphernalia” used by Ted in that iconic opening sequence. It includes his bong, his lighter, and the remains of his chronic in the actual baggie with a few “papers”! The glass bong is approximately 11″ high. The bowl has been chipped down a bit from repeated flame hits. To create a grand display, the three screen used prices also come with an official exact reproduction of the Ted doll (approx. 25″x11″). When you squeeze both paws at the same time it talks! In fact, it first recites the infamous lines for the opening bong sequence on the couch, and then goes on to other “classic” lines. Warning: these are extremely “X-Rated” rants, so be careful who exactly is “playing” with Ted! It also comes with a custom “TED” display sign and two Plexiglas framed screen shots on their own stand (approx. 10″x6″). . Just think of the possibilities! Comes with a COA.


Its interesting to note, with hindsight this one was actually missing a number of pieces to complete it. Until I received this second one from MRC which much more closely represented the screenused one to me, especially with the added parts.

ImageShots like the above also used a CGI prop and CGI bear. This one although it looks extremely close then couldn’t be used for screen matching, a problem for the PP auction which used these shots extensively.

My version can more than likely be seen in the following screen cap being held by Mark Wahlberg

ImageThe final image shows the water pipe in my possession with a COA from MRC and various other small prop pieces that came with it.