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10 Facts About The Elysium Space Station From ‘Elysium: The Art of the Film’
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It’s the year 2154 and Earth has been ravaged by disease, crime, pollution, war, and famine. The planet has become ruined and overpopulated, its inhabitants are poverty-stricken and suffering. Miles above Earth orbits the man-made space station called Elysium, where the ultra-wealthy reside in a lavish, healthy, crime-free environment far from the hazards of Earth. But Elysium’s idyllic existence is about to be disrupted. Max (Matt Damon), a dying man with only days left to live, embarks on a imperative mission from Earth to Elysium and is outfitted with the tools to see his dangerous mission through.

Elysium, director Neill Blomkamp‘s follow-up to District 9, introduces us to this dystopic Earth and its orbiting space station, Elysium, which is a paradise with lush vegetation, beautiful weather, mansion estates, and medical pods that easily cure people of their illnesses. The creation of the Elysium space station is just one segment contained in the new Titan Books release, Elysium: The Art of the Film by Mark Salisbury (Prometheus: The Art of the Film, Burton on Burton). This 176-page full-cover oversized hardcover contains concept and production art and designs, as well as stills from the film, along with first-hand accounts from the filmmakers, including legendary artist Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Tron).

Here’s 10 Facts About The Elysium Space Station From Elysium: The Art of the Film

1- The space station in the film is a Torus, or a wheel-shaped orbital space habitat, that’s above Earth, but director Neill Blomkamp said that this particular Torus was not the original concept for the Elysium paradise. While he didn’t divulge what that original concept was – as he wants to eventually use it in another film – he said it was totally different and he didn’t go with it in Elysium because he felt at this time that it wasn’t “visually renderable enough.”

Elysium space station view from space

2- The designers chose a 5 “bicycle” spoke design, as there was one with 4 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and while they tried different amounts, in the end, 5 felt right to them.

3- When designing the Elysium space habitat, the artists, including famed concept artist Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Aliens, Tron), put some “real world science behind it,” because Blomkamp doesn’t like “cheating” in that respect, so they tried to figure out where such an object would really orbit and how big it would appear from Earth.

4- The look and feel of the interior of Elysium was based on the posh neighborhood of Beverly Hills, CA, and was meant to be a “Bel Air in space.”

Elysium overhead view

5- Half a million people live on Elysium, a place that is free of war, crime, and disease where billionaires reside, orbiting 75 miles above the Earth.

6- Elysium space station sits on the same orbit as the International Space Station.

7- The space station has two inner rings: one for air purification, the other for telecommunications.

Elysium interior concept art

8- “Money doesn’t buy taste,” said Production Designer Philip Ivey, who felt that the billionaires who live on Elysium, although they’d have the money to get whatever they want to put their personal “stamp” on their mansions, what they want might not always be tasteful. Various styles were used, like faux Tuscan and ultra-modern, to make the billionaire homes.

Elysium Medical Pod

9- The Medical Pods that the citizens of Elysium use to stay young and healthy were modeled on MRI machines, as the filmmakers wanted audiences to look at it and have a sense of familiarity, making it more understandable how these machines would essentially move over the body to heal these people of the future.

10- Scenes in the movie set on the dystopian future Earth were shot differently than those on the luxurious Elysium space station. For Earth, they were shot with hand-held cameras; for Elysium, they used Techno-cranes, dolly tracks, and sometimes Steadicam – basically, everything they could to make the photography seem smooth and gliding.

Above is just a small taste of what’s included in Elysium: The Art of the Film, which delves deep into the world of Elysium. The book is divided up into two parts: EARTH and ELYSIUM. For Earth, we get to see details on the making of the weapons, vehicles, robots, and exo-suits (created by WETA), as well as the neighborhoods, workplaces, and government offices for the planet’s inhabitants. For Elysium, there’s a look at its exterior construction and the interior setting for the privileged class (with their servant robots) as well as areas of government, like deportation transport, the control room, defense, and more.

Elysium Matt Damon Exo-Suit concept art

Director Neill Blomkamp wrote the Foreword to this art book and after going through its hefty pages, it’s obvious how much detail was put into the creation of this future world and its divided society. The accounts provided by the crew involved in the conception and creation of the film are at times complicated in their explanation, which harkens back to them trying to get the science as close as possible. But flipping through this book, it’s the concept and production art that is immediately impressive, including the many 2-page spreads and multi-page fold outs.

Elysium concept art

If you’re a fan of the film, and are interested in going behind the scenes, Elysium: The Art of the Film is a wonderful companion. I was fascinated by what I learned about the movie and was enthralled by all the imagery, so even those people who feel lukewarm towards film (like our own FamousMonster – see his review) will likely be captivated by Elysium: The Art of the Film.

Elysium concept art

Elysium opens in theaters today, August 9, 2013. It’s also in IMAX theaters, which after checking out this art book, it’d say the movie will probably look pretty amazing in that format.

Elysium: The Art of the Film

[All images © TriStar Pictures Industries, Inc., used with permission.]

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  1. I think it shows India’s growing global power and acceptable influence. In contrast most Hollywood movies project China as the antagonist (villain). The world power ranking in all matters is 1USA, 2China, 3India. Europe is already poor, down and out. President Patel definitely shows the acceptance of India leading the world. India was down only in the last 200 years because of British robbers and drug traffickers. It is becoming rich and powerful once again.

    Comment by Jenny — August 9, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

  2. Elysium’s description of earth sound a lot like Detroit…and Detroit sounds a lot like where our country has been heading…so basically we get to look at what a ‘Fundamentally Transformed America’ looks like…Thanks Team O!!!!

    Comment by brine — August 12, 2013 @ 11:46 am

  3. but all we need is free healthcare to solve all the world’s problems! LOL

    Comment by Belinda Contague — August 12, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

  4. Elysium looks somewhat like a ripoff of Larry Niven’s Ringworld concept.

    Comment by Iam_Spartacus — August 13, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

  5. I really wish there was a novel of this movie.

    Comment by Brendon McNabb — November 10, 2013 @ 2:29 pm

  6. Every space city concept has been ring shaped. It’s so it can spin and counter the effect of zero gravity (which is what the earth does).

    Comment by David Crohn — September 15, 2014 @ 8:14 pm

  7. The International Space Station orbits at about 200 miles up—which is technically also “Low Earth Orbit” but the filmmakers were smart in making the space station lower than where the ISS is. You can only see the ISS as a tiny dot but in the film the city is right above where “space” officially begins (which is about 100 km, and though there are different standards this is the one I think NASA uses; 75 miles = 120km = where Elysium is) so it’s low enough that all the poor people below can see it clearly enough (though in LA the smog by 2154 will prob. make it impossible to see 1 km up).

    Comment by David Crohn — September 15, 2014 @ 8:28 pm

  8. Could this be considered a Dyson type habitat?

    Comment by Michael Johnstone — May 5, 2015 @ 9:16 am

  9. not really, cos the Dyson Sphere was the size of a planetary orbit… even Ringworld is larger than a single planet – this is just a poxy wee space station….

    Comment by Akeel Ahmad — March 11, 2016 @ 7:51 pm

  10. You watch too much Star Trek to know what a Dyson type habitat actually is.

    Comment by Michael Johnstone — March 12, 2016 @ 10:01 am

  11. You know what? That wouldn’t be far from the truth.

    Comment by George — May 27, 2016 @ 8:10 pm

  12. Or Idiocracy.

    Comment by George — May 27, 2016 @ 8:10 pm

  13. Besides Blade Runner, Elysium is my very favorite film. It is also political and tells exactly WHY earth will be destroyed by the poor who are over breeding, over polluting, and being religious….which precludes forward thinking and problem solving. And Elysium is and will become a reality, because NONE of the polluters and over breeders care a whit about saving this planet…or embracing science and thinking.

    Comment by Weismonger — October 1, 2016 @ 4:06 am

  14. Ringworld is still way cooler … even with it’s weird 1960’s hang-ups

    Comment by Sad_Dad — May 24, 2017 @ 9:23 pm

  15. @Weismonger

    “earth will be destroyed by the poor who are over breeding, over polluting, and being religious”

    oh? is that you, Defense Secretary Jessica Delacourt?

    Comment by DasKleineTeilchen — July 30, 2021 @ 12:47 am

  16. Do we really need space for this concept in true reality, we need it on earth now, the (movie) poor earth people vs. Rich space people, its here now on earth for a long time, no equality, been going on long time. And jeez, Matt Damon radiated, thats how real people are treated at shithole work places everyday, mistreated and abused….Besides it is a great movie, luv it, but, even the actors and crew make big monies for filming and are well off, like most underserved communities, we never will see that kinda money. Even if we wish we could play lotto but find we to broke to scrounge a dollar for a ticket full of wish !

    Comment by Crystal — April 24, 2022 @ 2:40 am

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