The Canadian landscape is one of the most diverse and beautiful in the world. Different cities and provinces offer up different settings altogether. Toronto and other parts of Ontario provide a metropolitan backdrop; the Prairies provide a flatter, calmer scene; British Columbia provides a vast and mountainous natural landscape; and so on. Because of the varied nature of these regions, it makes sense that Canada is a popular choice for filming. Here we look at how science fiction and the Canadian landscape go hand in hand.
Not only does Toronto provide a metropolitan backdrop that has repeatedly been used as a substitute for New York City in film and television, the city is also an appealing choice for producers because of the great production facilities available. Studios such as Pinewood provide large scale facilities perfect for shooting science fiction features.
This Vincenzo Natali feature is a Canadian Film Centre project which gained international success after its release. It is about a futuristic, claustrophobic prison and makes use of several versions of the same set in a Toronto soundstage.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
This second installment in the Resident Evil series by director Paul W.S. Anderson uses Toronto as a stand-in for the fictional Raccoon City. Viewers will recognize many of Toronto’s downtown locations and landmarks used during filming, including the CN Tower, the intersection of King and John Street, and the Danforth. City Hall and Exhibition Place were even used as a stand-in for Raccoon City’s Umbrella headquarters. Many have noted that Resident Evil: Apocalypse revels in its “Toronto-ness.” This is to say, even though it is Raccoon City, it does not attempt to shed those features which make it so obviously Torontonian. (Of course, Anderson has filmed all the Resident Evil movies here, but this is the one that uses outside locales so extensively.)
This city provides a range of scenery which is appealing to filmmakers. There are mountainous regions, metropolitan areas, and vast open spaces. The Twilight Saga is frequently cited when one discusses films shot in Vancouver; the natural landscape of the city is put on display in this film as well as several others.
Director Neill Blomkamp is a South-African-Canadian who is currently based out of Vancouver. Elysium’s principal photography includes a wide range of vibrant landscapes, both real and edited. Scenes taking place on Earth were shot in the Iztapalapa district of Mexico City, while scenes taking place on the titular luxurious space habitat were shot in Vancouver.
Tron: Legacy (2010)
Joseph Kosinski’s sequel to 1982’s Tron received quite a few negative reviews; however, it is very visually appealing. Primary photography took place in Vancouver’s central business district for just over two months. Downtown Vancouver and surrounding locations provided filmmakers with the perfect backdrop required for the digital-centric plot. Much of the “in game” action was also shot in studios at Burnaby, British Columbia.
This Howard McCain film stars Jim Caviezel and tells the story of a spaceship which crashes in Viking-age Norway. This project in particular is interesting because it features a number of different Canadian locations rather than just Halifax. Outlander was also filmed in Nine Mile River, Nova Scotia as well as Bay of Islands, Newfoundland. The latter landscape features an inlet which stood as a substitute for a fjord in the film. Apparently, the Newfoundland location was chosen after a production designer saw photos of its West Coast and liked it enough to reject the other landscape options of New Zealand and British Columbia.
Of course, it must be noted that there are too many science fiction films (and films belonging to other genres) shot in Canadian locations to be able to cover them all. Canada’s landscape is so varied and vibrant that it has something for every filmmaker’s need – whether that is a giant soundstage facility in Toronto or an inlet in Newfoundland, or anything in between.
Science fiction often thrives on the imaginative and the visually dynamic, and Canada provides a suitable backdrop for filming such projects. Hollywood directors and production crews continue to travel up north in order to make use of these landscapes.