Posted on Tuesday, June 18th, 2013 by Angie Han
No moviegoer walks into a theater excited about all the brands they’re about to see featured onscreen, but when a typical tentpole budget falls in the nine-figure range, product placement is a necessary evil. And sometimes, “evil” really seems like the best word to describe it — there’s nothing more obnoxious than a film that stops in its tracks so the hero can extol the virtues of a certain soft drink.
But Neill Blomkamp is hoping that the judicious use of product placement in Elysium will actually enhance the movie instead of taking away from it. Rather than simply tossing in any company that’d fork over the dough, Blomkamp went to pains to find brands that fit into his futuristic world. Read more about which companies he chose and why after the jump.
On some level, it’s tough to make a film look realistic without any corporate brands. We’re used to seeing Absolut logos on our vodka and Samsung logos on our TVs; when a character uses a generic cell phone with a fake brand it can be even more distracting than if he’d just flashed the latest iPhone model. The problem starts when a product doesn’t fit into the scene, or when it otherwise calls too much attention to itself.
So Blomkamp made the effort to fill Elysium with brands that he felt were appropriate, going so far as to reach out to companies himself. “This film has been an oddity in the product-placement world because I am not looking for any money from the brands we are using,” he wrote to the automobile company Bugatti. “I really want them because I [can] make the film better.”
For example, he’d chosen Bugatti in particular because it made sense to him that the ultra-wealthy characters of Elysium would drive luxury cars — albeit not ones exactly like the ones on the road today. “If you had a bunch of rich people living up there, they would have the equivalent of Ferraris and Bugattis that they fly around with,” he explained to The Wall Street Journal. “Basically, what I wanted to do was make a Bugatti that’s 150 years in the future, and those don’t come with wheels.”
In contrast, the poorer citizens on Earth are driving more affordable cars like the Nissan GT-R. Sure, they’re not exactly cheap now, but the ones in Elysium will be less James Bond than Mad Max. “The GT-R is one of the coolest high-performance cars for sale out there now,” Blomkamp said. “I wanted to make the GT-R the Earth’s version of a high-performance car.” Still other brands will surface in unusual places, like the Kawasaki armor sported by Matt Damon and the Versace med pods used by the elite class.
It’s too early to tell how Blomkamp’s careful approach will actually play on the screen, but the thinking behind it certainly seems sound. Hopefully he’ll be able to remind others that product placement doesn’t always have to be awkward and annoying. Elysium opens August 9.