THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE
Leigh Whannell walks us through the world of Upgrade
Envisioning the future can be tricky. Not just because we haven’t been there yet, but because the iconography of future worlds has been so set by films like Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Akira. You know the look: sleek, steely, neon-flooded and, more often than not, soaked in tropical rain.
That’s why, with the near-future depicted in Upgrade, Leigh Whannell and production designer Felicity Abbott wanted to steer clear of the visual cues of past sci-fi greats. “You start with what not to do,” Whannell explains. “You draw up two columns of What To Do and What Not To Do, and you put Blade Runner and Akira in the What Not To Do column. Felicity had this list to work from.”
So what did they do? Well... “If you think back to the early 2000s, the world didn’t look that much different to the way it does now,” says Whannell. “We said, ‘Okay, so the world basically looks the same, but there’s been these technological advances.’ We also decided we wanted the tech to reflect the natural world. That was a conscious decision to avoid that Akira/Blade Runner thing. Instead of going chrome and steel and making this cyborg movie, we wanted to use a lot of wood, a lot of natural material, so you see a lot of plants, a lot of wood materials.”
The natural world also informs the film’s architecture. “We have this tech baron in the film, the Elon Musk surrogate. His house is very technological and futuristic,” Whannell reveals, “but instead of using holograms and cold materials, we used a lot of plants and wood and rock. Stuff that felt very organic.
“Everything is supposed to keep reflecting the natural world, because that’s where Felicity and I thought that tech was going to go. I think in the future, tech will not be trying to look more tech-y. It’ll be trying to imitate the natural world and feel more organic. That was our prediction anyway, I might be totally wrong on that!”
Director Leigh Whannell thinks about the future.