The upcoming cinematic release from director Niall Blomkamp brings with it an added sense of anticipation, given the recent confirmation of him signing up to helm a new Alien movie. While the downward trajectory of that series means that this news will be met in many quarters with scepticism, there is reason to be hopeful that it can return to former glories under Blomkamp’s guidance.
It has, of course, been a twisting journey for the South African. He was famously due to direct the long mooted Halo adaptation, before that project stalled indefinitely. Such disappointment would have broken the resolve of many a weaker director, never mind a first timer. Oddly though, it was possibly a blessing in disguise: big screen game adaptations are notoriously difficult ventures. Halo would have carried with it a weight of expectation and large budget stress that could well have derailed his career before it got started.
Of course, it could also have been a huge success and sent him stratospheric. No matter – as it panned out, he retained a powerful ally in the form of Peter Jackson. So it was that events left him free to do District 9. The movie was an unexpected hit. It was well deserved too. District 9 was that rarest of things: a properly original work of science fiction. It also demonstrated a surprising level of confidence and technical assuredness. The movie was a joy in many ways; quirky, affecting, action-packed and visually striking.
His follow-up, Elysium, proved to be a bit of a letdown, lacking in the energy and zip that set his debut apart. Chappie, however, sees him returning to home turf in many ways – filming in Johannesburg and also in the casting of good-luck charm Sharlto Copley (as the titular character), along with the surprise inclusions of Watkin Tudor Jones and Yolandi Visser, otherwise known as Ninja and Yolandi from the quite bonkers local music group, Die Antwoord.
The movie, set in an authoritarian future society where law is upheld by mechanised humanoid robots, follows the journey of one of these enforcers, which is stolen and reprogrammed. The ability to feel and think for itself brings it inevitably into conflict with its masters.
While this could theoretically read as not much more than a modern day Short Circuit (by way of Robocop), the reintroduction of a distinctly South African flavour to Blomkamp’s work is most welcome. This, after all, helped add a sense of charm and humour to District 9.
There is another important element to consider when it comes to Blomkamp too: his love of, and commitment to science fiction as a genre is encouraging. His is a new and original voice and that in itself elicits excitement. Here’s hoping it translates into another gold nugget with Chappie.
Rob Malan is a writer, reviewer and freelance editor. He is a self-proclaimed movie aficionado, and passionate advocate of great story telling across various media formats, whether that be in films, TV, gaming, books or graphic novels. He holds a dream of one day finding the means to transmit the multiple epic stories in his head telepathically to the world at large, and retains a vivid imagination.