The “Elysium” story Part 9 Building a better Hulc suit

Whilst this may be the final chapter of the story, its never really the end is it. Especially when this film is concerned. Sadly one of us didn’t meet the deadline self imposed on ourselves to get the big reveal on one of our prizes completed but in the meantime I still have some very cool photos and trials and tribulations to share.

Now I wrestled internally about this article. How do you present the following items without making it sound like the seller didn’t make errors in selling them. The truth is you can’t really. There are some really big mistakes in some of these notes but its unfair to target VIP for them. With crates of individual parts of the suits and no plans, advice, limited prop building experience and only publicity stills they did an amazing job of piecing together some of the most expensive and elaborate prop/wardrobe items ever made for film. The warts and all are kind of there to see in the pictures and auctions that have been showing up on eBay these past three months.

                                         Original Max design by Ben Mauro

First up lets get something on the table. These things are complicated. I have a problem putting together an IKEA cabinet so all of the hard work, tracking nuts, bolts, screws, and the like & I wish to put that totally at my partner in crimes feet who I worked with on these auctions. We often forget that we may pay as was the case with “Outlander” and the working beacon I purchased from it, $500 for a prop that cost $30,000 to manufacture here is a great example of that. With the pistons on this suit and various parts that go just to make them up finding out just the end of it was $3.29 each, well we began to get a new appreciation for the cost of making these things. That and the year of production time it took to prototype, build, test and fabricate the final suits. Here is a video I made of the pistons used on one of the suit.

Add the discovery that basically the pistons were made in pairs and all of the pairs were different sizes, and different appearance on the Max and Kruger suit….and we are STILL only talking about Pistons you can probably get some idea of the enormity of this task.

So I’ve done a great job of setting up how hard it is to reconstruct these things. Problem is I think if you weren’t following the auction you might not have realised how these suits came to the table. Well….some pieces came like this….

hulc hard armThis is a hero complete arm as used in the film, all the nuts and bolts in place, everything together and gently used and placed back into its Weta crate after production.

and some pieces came like this…..

hulc hard arm 1As you can see in this lot there is a stunt used upper chest piston at the bottom of the photo, an unused leg at the top and a hero arm on the far left. Screws, washers, bolts, connectors, some Imperial size, some metric, and all seemingly different. With no rhyme or reason behind the lots it simply became buy everything to attempt to put all the puzzle pieces back together. So…that was the mission.

Things became even harder when early on without DVD or BLU footage of the movie early on piecing together the suits had to rely on the “Art of Elysium” which I know we both highly recommend. Now with the Blu out tomorrow and the digital version from 3 weeks ago things are a little easier. Buying the stuff wasn’t just the problem then. There was a wish by us both to make the suits EXACTLY like the ones from the film. The correct screws, the moving pistons and arms, everything just like it had walked off the set. Again, this was far more palpable from my partner. He wanted it perfect. I was happy to use bubble gum and string….but the more we ventured down the path of no return the more I caught on to doing this right. Otherwise…..why bother.

Why? Because the original Exo suit on ebay in August that sold for $16,200 was a bit of a botch although at the time I was as ready as anyone to put my bid in. A bid that was pretty much blown out of the water before I even hit send. I have the feeling today the suit was put together as best as could be done. Heck…it took us 3 months of research and having the pieces with closeup photos and footage available to work out exactly all the pieces. We must have looked at photos thousands of times…and still find things today we didn’t know before.

hulc parts

Example of lot with various pieces from Kruger’s exo suit, some used, some unpainted, some test.

So, whats the big issue. Well without boring everyone with minutia there’s bits in the wrong place…bits missing….stunt mixed with hero….not enough screws, bolts and bits. In short take one step in it and its less a stunning piece but rather in pieces.

Original auction description follows:

The undershirt is described as being composed of a nylon material with metal screw holes and zippers and silicone parts to make it appear as skin. The undershorts are described as being composed of spandex, also with metal screw holes and zippers. The suit pieces are described as being composed of  polyester resin and hard rubber materials, and are combined with several different types of hardware. This suit was received from production in pieces, and was reassembled to the best of the abilities of the VIP staff. It may not be identical to the suit in the film, but is very similar. Some assembly is required.

The suit was designed to fit Matt Damon very snug, but the shirt and shorts can stretch slightly. This suit is in good condition, but shows signs of use from production. This is one of two hard stunt full suits associated with Max received from production. The other will be listed separately. Please note that this suit was used as a prop and is not a functioning universal load carrier.  This set is being sold as photographed below. 

Incorrect shoulder to front plate pistons are too large.

                           Incorrect shoulder to front plate pistons are too large.

For some time we used these stunning pictures from the “art of” book so you can clearly see how it should have looked. The difference in length of some of these pistons is mm. Also with a standard mannequin being 6’1 and this being tailored for a 5’11 Matt Damon there was always going to be a problem display this in the picture.

20130827_184744In the following picture most of the pistons and accompanying spacers are missing parts meaning they will no function as needed to move correctly. Other things like the spine are stretched out because of the length of the mannequin or in the case of the top of the spine, missing the correct piece altogether.

hulc suit 1aThe top of the spine would look like this.

HULC-Top-Spine-3Again hoping your seeing the enormity of this task here as this little 1.5 inch hunk of resin is integral to allowing the spine to not only move but also the top pistons need to attach to it per this picture.

                          Original production art of Max in Hulc suit

By the way take a look the the “Art of” cover below again. The top right spine piece…do you notice its laying at 6 0’clock having disconnected as per the left hand side which is correct. After starring at the image for a month back in September we discovered the photo had been Photoshopped for the movie poster! The red cords are the power leads for the headpiece.

Getting complicated. Yeah….my word-count is going to be thru the roof with this one.

So even after buying the suit above, the poor buyer still had to purchase the t-shirt & trouser combination for the suit to display right….


interior vambraces for the arms

, and a headpiece. As you can see….putting one of these together was never going to be cheap or possible for most collectors.

headpiece and cablesAnother of the problems arose early on with several interviews which stated there were 3 types of suits made for the film. Joe Dunckley was quoted as saying there were 2 hero, 2 stunt and two soft rubber stunts made for falls in various interviews. After contacting Weta directly I received these replies from Rob Gillies, one of the Exo HULC leads of fabrication.

Here is his reply:

The stunt suit was created for Sharlto to do the stunt fighting scenes. The reason it is floppy is not only to protect Sharlto from injuring himself in the suit but also to protect the actor/ performer who he is fighting against.

and a follow up after that.

Hi Mark,

             Unless something happened on set that I’m not aware, we only created the two types of suits here at Weta being the Hard hero with moving pistons and the soft stunt suits which you are now the keeper of.

I so glad to hear these have ended up with someone who has as much pride in owning the pieces as we did in creating them.

This of course helped clear up a lot of the mystery surrounding the way they were described by VIP but also made it clear to me that despite many extra pieces being fabricated for the production and unpainted or not detailed that basically two hero and two stunts were made for each actor, and the stunts had been used by the actors themselves at various points. I also confirmed that occasionally stunt and hero parts would be swopped out as needed. It would seem though that Weta had made the finished Hero suits so well that they were used beyond the capability expected of them.

Hero HULC parts delivered to Vancouver before graffiti and dirtying down

             Hero HULC parts delivered to Vancouver before graffiti and dirtying down

So after being beaten into submission with the “hero” suits it became apparent that piecing together the parts would be the next best option. It all in fact started with a spine…a set of them in fact. Over the course of the auction we found several ranging from stunt rubber to resin. The gem came early on with the Hero surgery spine mixed in with pieces. The blood residue and various other factors helped screen match it.

hero spineand slowly the pieces came together…..

pistons extra 2bit by bit…piece by piece…

hero kruger piston covers

                       hero Kruger piston covers in correct sequence for mounting

3 hours!!!! Wow. This is turning into a real page turner. Lol.

I think I should move onto the “presto-chango” pics.

Max’s hero headpiece

Hero surgery spine.

surgeryp spineStunt Kruger Exo Hulc suit worn by Sharlto Copley

Exo suit test at Weta NZ worn by employee

                                          Exo suit test at Weta NZ worn by employee

With the delay on fitting the chest plate I will have pics of the finished Hero Kruger Exo suit later in the week. In the meantime though here is the hero light up headpiece, proving a picture can tell 1,000 words. Isn’t that so much nicer than the auction shot.

saypeon headpieceand a sneak peak of the newly finished arms. All correctly screwed and bolted together. Every piston working in harmony with the one next to it. In short. Incredible.

kruger exo hulc arms


I may well at the beginning of these articles have promised you a review of the film. Sadly….I’m not really at liberty to do so. You see I’m too biased.

Whilst the film falls short of the greatness of “District 9” which was almost universally loved, “Elysium” has its problems. Its almost too close to the truth for some. Almost a little too perfect in its construction for others. For me, its a film of possibilities that have been made whole by the incredible production design of Aaron Beck and other artists like him who made over 2,500 drawings all of which could have been used in the film. Its the artistry by Weta’s Richard Taylor, Phil Ivey, Joe Dunckley, Ben Mauro and all you other employees who worked so hard to make the designs reality, shepherded of course by Neil Blomkamp.

So in closing this series of articles is dedicated to them, and to those movie prop collectors who helped myself and D. put there dream together. You see this has been a rough three months. Emotional even. The thought of losing a lot and being unable to complete these costumes would have been a hill that could have been climbed but then whats the use of having the dream and talking till the wee small hours of the morning about making it all work out. To put these pieces back together just because we could…and learn so much about the work that went into creating them in the first place just because we loved the film, and the work that went into the art in front of us.Without the kindness of Bill, Randy, Sabrina, Thomas, Ron all respected members of the prop collecting community and all of whom at one time or another helped purchase a lot or backed off to let various pieces come our way, well our Wednesdays and Fridays wouldn’t have been quite as fun. I appreciate it very much. I hope you enjoy the pieces we split with you. If you didn’t want to work with us….all 2 of you….well….glad we could bid you up (joke!).

Finally I dedicate this to VIP partnership and its owner Mark and one of the hardest working people I know Shelly who takes care of all your customer needs. They did what they could to make buying these items whilst not a cheap experience, a pleasant and happy one. If you have experienced purchasing an item from them you will know they ship fast, well and have always done their best to make the experience top class. Their feedback on eBay speaks for itself. They and their crew are 5 stars. Remember that when your bugging them for the fifth time in 48 hrs.

Now go to your Blu ray and “Activate” it. Like Kruger your in for a mind blowing experience.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++END OF LINE+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Okay….I give it 8 out of 10 since you asked….


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