Opaloch on Cloud 9 with Elysium
PK grad happy to continue being cinematographer for cool films
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013 06:00 am
The early box office success of the new movie, Elysium, has surely pleased everyone from film fans to writer/director Neill Blomkamp to stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley.
Count Trent Opaloch in too. Heís the St. Albert-raised cinematographer of the sci-fi actioner. You might think that, since production wrapped up in September 2011, the Paul Kane grad would have had plenty of opportunities to see the finished product.
Not so. He caught a matinee screening with some friends and family on opening day, August 9.
ďI was shooting Captain America in L.A. for the first six months of this year. That was when a lot of the final post stuff was coming in,Ē he explained. ďI saw early edits but I didnít see the actual final finished film.Ē
ďThe last time I saw it would have been at the end of last year. It was temp music tracks. It was temp vis effects. I went to some DI sessions Ė digital intermediate sessions Ė when I was back in town on weekends when I could fit it in with Neillís schedule. It was the same thing with District 9.Ē
This marks the continuation of a beautiful working friendship between director and director of photography. After he moved to Vancouver, Opaloch earned respect from his commercial and music video work. Thatís when he met Blomkamp, the South African-born visionary filmmaker who started his new life in Canada as a visual effects artist. They worked on a few projects before 2009 and thatís when their lives and careers were changed forever.
Thatís the year that Blomkampís first and most notable work, District 9, came out. That socially aware story set in the present was about xenophobic racism and segregation in a South African police state. Aliens looking for asylum in Johannesburg are sent to internment camps instead of being integrated with the rest of the population. It was more of a drama with sci-fi elements, and some great cinematography. Opaloch was even nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts for it.
Elysium is different. Set 150 years in the future, the movie is set in a classist dystopia. There are no aliens but rather lots of robots all keeping everyone in their place with guns and red tape. All of the poor people must inhabit Earth while all of the wealthy elite get a utopian space station called Elysium to live the rest of their perfect lives completely free from the disease, poverty, war and overpopulation that have ravaged the planet below them.
Matt Damonís character, Max, is an ex-con who works for Armadyne, the company that built Elysium. When he endures an industrial accident that exposes him to a lethal dose of radiation, his only option is to get to the Med-Pod on the space station to receive life-saving treatment. The only problem Ė and itís a big one Ė is that Elysium is heavily protected against such interlopers.
Part of the success of the end result is that it got a huge boost from designer Syd Mead, the visionary illustrator who helped bring the worlds of Blade Runner, Star Trek, Aliens and Tron all to cinematic life. Mead was credited with inspiring Philip Ivey to design the look of the ships, the robots, the exoskeletal battle suits, and the pristine environment of Elysium.
Opaloch is pretty satisfied with the end result.
ďI really, really like it. Iím really happy with it. Iím still so close to it and I remember so much of what we shot thatís changed. Itís hard to distance myself from it. That only comes with repeated viewings.Ē
The film has already gotten a very positive reception. It was number one at the box office on its opening weekend with a take of $29.8 million US according to the Internet Movie Database.
Works in progress
Opaloch doesnít take much time off between projects. He has already wrapped up his work for the principal photography on Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That superhero sequel is now in post-production under the helm of directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Itís due out in theatres after the winter in early April 2014.
Heís getting set to take off to South Africa to get to work on Blomkampís next project called Chappie. Details on the plot are unavailable at this time, but it is supposed to be a comedy sci-fi film based on his own short film called Tetra Vaal about robotic police officers. Itís set to once again star Sharlto Copley, a common factor in Blomkampís oeuvre thus far. District 10, the sequel to District 9, comes after that, but the project is still in the early stages of signing on production staff. Opaloch hasnít yet committed to the film.