Elysium, the new feature film from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, is set in the year 2154. In this vision of the future, life is wonderful for the unimaginably wealthy, who have migrated to a pristine man-made space station, complete with synthetic parks, swimming pools and spectacular mansions. The rest live on an overpopulated husk of Earth, where the resources are tapped out and pollution, crime and poverty are rampant. Matt Damon's character attempts to bridge the two worlds, incurring the wrath of Elysium's power elite, represented by Jodie Foster's character. As you may have guessed, the fate of millions hangs in the balance.
"Back in the 1970s, people were actually discussing the idea of leaving Earth and building space stations for us to live on one day," says Blomkamp. "I liked the idea of taking this well-known science-fiction concept and caking it with wealth, diamonds and Bel Air-style mansions. The image of putting these exorbitant, ridiculous mansions on a doughnut-shaped space station is hilarious to me, and it became something I wanted to make a movie about."
Opaloch studied filmmaking in Thunder Bay, Ontario, at the alma mater of his father, a nature documentary filmmaker. After graduation, the younger Opaloch moved west to Vancouver and did a practicum stint at Clairmont Camera, going on to work at the rental house for five years. Using equipment borrowed on weekends, he built up his reel, making spec commercials and short films. That led to paid work on hundreds of music videos, and on one of those videos, he met Blomkamp.
Blomkamp ran an early version of the Elysium script by Opaloch years ago, and the story changed drastically over time. "It seemed to become bigger and bigger with every draft," says Opaloch. "The big attraction for me has always been Neill's vision of two worlds: the orbiting habitat of Elysium versus this dumpy place, what's left of Earth after it has been stripped of all its resources."
On Elysium as in District 9, there are two discreet storytelling modes, but the similarities end there. The first mode displays a more realistic tone, and the second, on Elysium, is more refined, with more Steadicam, crane work and dollies. "We very specifically made sure that Elysium was clean and sterile and beautiful in a technological way, whereas Earth was meant to look much more cinema verité," says Blomkamp.