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”.


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