ElysiumThere aren't that many films I look forward to seeing, especially with the recent spat of pre-teen friendly superhero movies, but I was pretty stoked when I saw the trailer for Elysium. Wow, an intelligent science fiction action story with a great concept, from the guy who did District 9! I was on board.

Then I saw the film. It was.. ok.

Then I saw the trailer again, and it actually annoyed me. The film didn't deliver on it. Seeing the trailer again just rammed that home, cause I still want to actually see that film.

I don't want to rail on all the things I didn't like, and there was a lot I did like. Instead I was going to think about how I would have done things differently. This film is right up my alley, its my genre, hell its something I would have written myself, so I wondered why I didn't enjoy it. I decided to press all the books I've been reading into service and see if I can come up with a story I think I would have enjoyed more..

These are just some basic thoughts on the concept, all the action set pieces can be hung off of this, but that's all just flash in the pan if there's nothing behind it..

  • I would drop the illegal immigrant angle. Elysium is a place where you can go for treatment if you can afford it. This makes the plotting a lot more straightforward, and less 'in your face' allegorical.
  • The hero is not a recovering criminal, he's a recovering soldier. His disease is something chronic, something you can live with. But "boy Imagine if I didn't have this, everything would be roses!".
  • Elysium is paradise, sure, but the thing isn't getting there, its belonging there. That's the crux of the story. Acceptance.
  • Getting cured isn't going to get him what he wants, we could even get that over with in the first 10 minutes. Now we meet The Girl, a resident of Elysium.
  • The Hero wants to be accepted, firstly by a family, then by a society. Elysium is an unnatural society, built not on acceptance, but on rejection. The main romantic story plays that out as they back-and-forth. The story is done when they get together, because the original premise of Elysium itself will be disproven.
  • The villain. This is someone who wants to enforce separation, so he's at odds with our Hero. I think this guy is a terrorist. This guy represents the thing that actually does keep people apart - fear.
  • He arrives on the station, causes mayhem, and then things kick off. He has an agenda, he's not just a loose cannon. Most of the action then takes place on Elysium (which delivers on the trailer more).
  • During the fun and games, we learn that Elysium is a novelty that wears off quickly. People here are more isolated than those on Earth. There are a lot of cracks and decay up close.
  • The villain is defeated, the Hero doesn't die, and he does get the girl. This is the movies after all!

It's 1996, and I'm 15 years old. Back then, I spent all of my time dreaming up stories, and drawing, constantly drawing. I drew on envelopes, newspapers, schoolbooks, even exam papers. Iapetus arose on one of those exam afternoons.

It was an English exam, on a really nice sunny afternoon. The exam hall, imaginatively called The Green Carpet Room - even though the carpet was now blue - was huge and fairly empty. This day it was rather peaceful, with the sunlight streaming in through the oppressively high windows. I finished the exam early, and instead of leaving the exam hall, I stuck around and started writing out a story. By the time I was ushered out with the rest of the students, I had furiously scribbled out 3 foolscap pages, the examiner was confused when I left without submitting them with the exam.

When I got home, I typed up the pages and started expanding upon them. This was going to be a science fiction story, and the one thing that fascinated me was that it would be set in the distant future, thousands of years into the future. In this time, the Sun has started to 'break down'. Now, this was about 5 billion years too soon, but like Sunshine I didn't bother coming up with a good reason - the Sun just stopped working right. This was going to have all kinds of bad effects on the Earth and the inner planets, and the idea was to escape the dying solar system in some kind of ship. It's all very clich├ęd, but then, as now, I was more interested in the characters and the action.

I didn't have a title yet, so I dug out a battered old book on the Solar System, and started pouring through the index looking for interesting words. Iapetus was the only one I felt was pronounceable-ish, but obscure enough to not be basically just the name of a planet.

A battered old Space encyclopedia I've been lugging around all my lifeThe index at the back of the book where I discovered the name Iapetus

Even though I was intending to do a comic, I started writing out the story in a little notebook, the kind policemen use. I took it everywhere, and any chance I got, took it out and just kept writing where I'd left off. I typed it all up, all 20,000 words, and printed it out. Now it didn't make a lot of sense because I just made it up, in tiny 5 minute chunks in between class. In fact, it made no sense at all, but it did have some over-the-top violence that amused my classmates, so I had a small audience waiting for the continuing instalments.

I scribbled in this notebook any chance I gotWhen I read over it later, I realised it made no sense!More random scribblings

I didn't think much about how to structure a comic, I just figured I'd draw the pages as I went along, one at a time, like this one:

page_one

I only managed to get a single page drawn though, because I had discovered 3D graphics, and I was already wondering how Iapetus would work as an animated film. It would open with a night-time attack in a vast cityscape. I began to design the centrepiece, a glass and steel skyscraper in the heart of futuristic Europe...