“The Elysium Story” Guns, guns, guns “The Chem-rail”

Finally…..the Chem-rail. Probably the most in your face prop from the film sans the Exo skeleton on Matt’s back because of this one picture that seems to have appeared in every magazine or website at one point advertising the film. Its also the picture because of the lighting that made people ask “is that gun green or black?”

Well its black. Except when they use green ones.

The description from IMW.com tells the story better than I can.

Max De Costa (Matt Damon) grabs a ChemRail rifle during the fight in the Elysium armory. The ChemRail has a high rate of fire, and its high-velocity rounds rip right through walls and shred enemies. The weapon has a blazing rate of fire, and instead changing magazines, Max just grabs another Chem-rail rifle from the armory after the first one runs out of ammo. According to the official site, it fires 8.75x52mm FSDRAS (Fin Stabilized, Discarding Rail Accelerator Sabot) rounds with a muzzle energy of 18 kilo joules. It is a dual-stage weapon, use chemical propellant first and then electro-magnetic rails as the second stage.

Designed and belt by Weta the first week of the VIP auction saw a black with white lettering rubber variant sell for $6200. An amazing price, for frankly an amazing prop. The problem was just how many of them in the auction. Thanks to the unit prop list and several photos online we had a good idea.

Instagram picture of the Chemrails in the propshop at Weta by Neil Blomkamp

Instagram picture of the Chem rails in the prop shop at Weta by Neil Blomkamp

It would be the auction itself that gave us more information about what kind of guns were made. As sold VIP sold a number of guns. The first rubber in August, a second resin gun at around the same price, and a working version for around $4,000 in November.

Working version of Max's weapon

                                    Working version of Max’s weapon

The working gun had particle effects, smoke and a working moving barrel when the gun was powered. Unfortunately the black one did not have the power packs required. Those were sold back in October with the green chem-rail that had tape on it that Drake used. This one sold for around $4,000. Pictures below.

working chemrail14781394Drake also uses a green variant in other scenes without the tape attached. This version was seen more frequently in the VIP auctions, when of the very nicest on your-props

                                          Chem-rail owned by RKPETERSEN on your-props

The text with it describes nicely the “mid range Chem-rails” made for production, when not firing or being thrown around.

 

This ‘high resolution’ prop is composed of fiberglass and other materials, and represents an intermediate between the hero weapon seen in closeup and the simpler background props.  Although largely static, the spring-loaded trigger is depressible, and the stock has an integrated spring shock absorber that causes the rear of the weapon to compress when pulled back against the shoulder, simulating recoil.

These green versions sold between $1500-2500 and whilst not as popular as the black/white variant a beautiful prop from the film. A rubber version sold for $1250 and the working one was addressed above. There were approximately 6 of the green versions sold by VIP.

Around the time of the film we found out that Weta was making a replica version of this gun for $399 which I must admit put me off at the time in an edition of 750. Now knowing they will have no working parts or ability to break down as per the originals I’m not nearly as concerned.

This was of course after San Diego Comic con where Weta showed off the robot, pistol, grenade and of course the Chem-rail. Interestingly enough several of the props were wrongly painted and detailed. You may remember for instance the orange SMG from the art book. On closer inspection the Chem rail is wrong.

If you look closely the green area has the bar code too high, a red graphic on the front handle, the orange sticker near the barrel is too big. I suspect this was made after production for the event and they simply ran out of some of the graphics, the guns having already made it from Mexico/Vancouver to VIP in the mid-west for sale.

The final version of the chem-rail never made it to script. In this early script fragment Matt Damon pulls a railgun from the Raven and in the confrontation with Kruger has it literally melted out of his hand.

This is the version sold on ebay as the “melted” chem-rail which didn’t appear in the final cut of the movie.

melted chemrailThese are actually hero resin guns made for production that have been drilled out in the middle section and wires attatched down the side of the rifle that allow a current to pass thru to electrical wires inside the gun. A layer of chemicals and flashpaper were then put over the exterior of the piece and ignited to simulate the material burning and melted as per the script. When the sequence was changed Max merely throws the Chem-rail to the ground in the finished film. When we see it again, a fresh one the effect of lightning on the side is shown simulating the damage similar to the effect below.

Whilst not used these are still part of the original weapons made for the film and still an important artifact of production.

Crate of Chemrails delivered to production from WETA

                          Crate of Chem-rails delivered to production from WETA

Ill leave you with these stunning final pictures of the evolution of the gun from Aaron Beck and the final pictures taken by Weta after production. More soon!

Original design Chem-rail

                                     Original design Chem-rail

Weta final product build

                                                 Weta final product build

 

The “Elysium” story Part 4 “Guns, Guns, Guns……continued”

So in the earlier article this week we covered the hand pistol and the SMG…..time for bigger artillery!

First up Weta built the giant rocket launcher used by Kruger in the Mexican desert scenes and this was never sold during the VIP auctions.

Image

Courtesy of Christian Pearce

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This rocket launcher was probably custom made by Weta and not a found item.

The next weapon is Krugers throwing star seen here in the Pittsburghprops collection on yourprops.

8(2)This was the only one sold by VIP with the working light that blinks and graphics attached. Interestingly enough the light is actually the same “unit” inside the ear pieces worn by the citizens of “Elysium” painted black. This was thrown at Rico during the fight on the space-station causing him to be wounded and then blown up.

Kruger uses a similar device on his wrist that he can Laser point at a target and launch smart bombs towards. These are what brings Sandro to an untimely end when he explodes.

Kruger also favours blades, the first being his knife with the Asgari weapons corporation logo on the hilt. This is an example of a rubber and working blade, used on Matt Damon when he is stabbed in the stomach.

Krugers sword is an important prop in the film and carries the Samurai motif. Watch in the next installments of “The Elysium story” for that particular items history.

So…..onto grenades. Kruger meets an untimely end, or so we think by the hands of the grenade held by Max on the Raven aircraft. During the VIP auctions around about 4 lots of grenades were sold, and in the end I think myself and my co-buyer bought most of them in the hunt for the elusive screenmatch. It also helped that the very first lot had extra handles that could be placed on the grenades that were missing them later on. The first bunch of grenades sold in late August were rubber, but later the resin ones started showing up, which were much nicer and less paint damaged.

                                    Grenade from the RKPETERSEN collection

These props are beautiful examples of Weta’s work. The pin can be pulled, the handle flips up and off and the device is armed. For these two sell in the $200 range originally was a steal. Em not sure if people didn’t know what they were and how they featured in the film but to me they are a must have prop.

The other versions of the grenades were a different shape in gray, green and black. The best of them the HRX version that hung from Drake’s belt is here. The original artists rendering is on the right.

The version thrown under the car by an android is in fact unpainted as my brother pointed out. No decals on it either.

We will feature the Ak-47 sight in more detail later next week, but the ammunition that gun uses is very cool. Made of resin the VIP auction saw 3 sets, and a couple of unpainted versions.

The first week of the auction saw this larger version of the stun gun used only as a CGI prop go for some $1500.

The smaller handheld versions used by both Drake, Crowe and the Homeland defence team sold between $500-1300. Four resin and one rubber. Here is the rubber one from my collection in its actual holster.

I know it was scene in the B-roll footage on you-tube early on, but this gun when it came up for auction did stump quite a few people.

Originally made for Crowe, the mercenary the gun was meant to plug into the vest that he wears to power it. A scene from the script changed near filming had Crowe grab the gun when Max and Frey run from the ship only to be fired on with the giant gun, and Max using a shield like Kruger did earlier to deflect the bullets.

Crowe_railgun_02_ABThe original art for the scene is below.

E_forcefield2d_BM_905It is also positioned on the weapons rack in the armory scene.

Which brings us neatly to the main gun in the above image. The Chem-rail. Guess what….

new_railgun_02More on that tomorrow!

 

 

 

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”.