Elysium: The Art of the Film; World War Z: The Art of the Film (Titan Books)

With the “art of” books, you have time to actually sit and contemplate said production design, while also learning something of the process that went into planning and making the film.

 

 

Elysium: The Art of the Film (Titan Books)
176 pgs., color; $25.00
(W: Mark Salisbury; A: various)
 
World War Z: The Art of the Film (Titan Books)
160 pgs., color; $19.95
(W: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, & Damon Lindelof; A: various)
 
One of the more welcome aspects of the current trend toward ever-larger blockbusters that seem to suck up most of the time and attention in the summer movie season is the appearance of companion “art of the film” books—because while the screenplays of said blockbusters often leave much to be desired in the originality and subtlety department, their production design is frequently outstanding. And with the “art of” books, you have time to actually sit and contemplate said production design, while also learning something of the process that went into planning and making the film.
 
Elysium: The Art of the Film is everything you could ask for in such a book. It opens with a foreword by director Neill Blomkamp (who burst onto the scene in 2009 with District 9), followed by an essay exploring the making of the film, including the genesis and creation of the two worlds that compose the locations for Elysium: Los Angeles, now (in 2154) a decaying shanty town, and Elysium, a luxurious space colony for rich people.
 
Most of the book, however, is dedicated to a series of short chapters examining different aspects of the visual world of Elysium, from creation of the different locations (the slums, the factory, the torus, and so on) and the elements that populate those worlds, from the robots to the weaponry—and even a two-page spread dedicated to logos used in the film. Throughout, there are a generous selection of photos, artist’s drawings, and diagrams to warm the heart of any nerd.
 
I can’t say as much for World War Z: The Art of the Film, which really needs a different title—it’s more of an illustrated screenplay than a volume dedicated to illustrating and explaining the production design of the film. Since the screenplay was not exactly the film’s strong point (I recommend reading Max Brooks’ novel by the same name, if you want to see what went missing in the translation to the screen), it’s not one you want to study, except perhaps as a negative example.
 
To be fair, there are quite a few illustrations included in World War Z: The Art of the Film, so it does give you a sense of the experience of the film. There’s not much analysis or explanation of the visual elements, however, which are mostly presented in photographs, so it’s not nearly as useful as it might be if you’re interested in learning how the film was actually designed and put together. The result is a book that’s basically of interest if you liked the film and want to relive it in your living room, and aren’t too particular about learning anything new along the way. | Sarah Boslaugh

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