By Todd Knaak

November 04, 2014

It seems like every move that South African filmmaker, Neill Blomkamp, makes garners enough buzz to ensure funding for future projects. Whether it’s teaming up with Peter Jackson to make the long awaited Halo movie – which by the way went WAY over budget, so Peter Jackson’s apology was to give him $30 million dollars for District 9, throwing his name on as producer, and I’m assuming a very long shoulder shrug, which Neill took and made his giant explosion into feature filmmaking. That led to Elysium, which was just good enough to be considered good, and now the much-anticipated Chappie.

What separates Neill from the waves of directors that get a hard-on every time robots explode on each other – you know who you are – is his ability to take the latest technology and his massive scopes, and whittle it all down to the most basic human stories. The dude knows how to cast a damn film. District 9 starred Sharlto Copley who, up until that point, was just Neill’s friend, and dabbled in newscasting. That is until Neill asked him to star in the big budget epic –I like to imagine the conversation having gone down in 30 seconds with three words and over a particularly chewy sandwich. This took away star power from the film ensuring people walked away thinking about what it had to say rather than Mark Wahlberg’s biceps. And let’s admit it, Elysium didn’t have the District punch and word of mouth, so none of us would’ve seen Elysium if Matt Damon wasn’t killing it.

Which leads us to Chappie. Sorry that took so long, I black out when I have too intense a nerdgasm. Chappie, is loosely based on one of 3 short films that Neill pumped out pre-District 9, called Tetra Vaal (2003), that caught the attention of Peter Jackson. It’s about the first robot capable of thinking for itself, and how the society it’s grown in directly shapes who it will become, whether that’s good or bad. It’s a classic coming of age story, though starring a robot to get a fresh and unique look of how one grows and absorbs the environment it’s raised in.

And this time he’s scoped out our friends Die Antwoord’s Yolandi and Ninja to star alongside some other big names. Notice that Neill, Die Antwoord, and Sharlto are all from South Africa. Neill looks out for his own, and still makes it work. I’m willing to guess that at least 1/10th of the revenue Chappie pulls in is from Antwoord’s fans seeing how they do in a movie. The man is crafty as hell, he knows how to tell a story and push technology at the same time. He does it his way, and he’s a homie.

Chappie releases March 6th, 2015.

Todd Knaak