Neill Blomkamp Didn’t Mince Words Talking About the Failures of ‘Elysium’ and ‘Chappie’
I haven’t liked all of Neill Blomkamp’s movies, but I like Neill Blomkamp. He’s a filmmaker of bold ideas and obvious visual skills. The success of District 9, both with audiences and critics, speaks for itself. Since then, though, it’s been one stumble after another. His first Hollywood feature, Elysium with Matt Damon, was a disappointment; his follow-up, Chappie with Hugh Jackman, was a straight-up disaster.
He moved on to an Alien sequel that sounded interesting (it would have featured the survivors of Aliens while ignoring Alien 3 and Resurrection), but Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant permanently killed any chance of the film getting made. Reading Blomkamp’s comments about all of this on Den of Geek makes me like him even more. Rather than blaming anyone for not liking these movies, he’s honest about them and about their shortcomings.
Elysium, for example, he straight up says “wasn't actually that good.” On this much, we agree. Blomkamp was happier with the results on Chappie, but he also acknowledges that it didn’t work for the audience:
It was directed in such a way that some ideas didn’t come across. For whatever reason, there were many elements that critics in general didn’t pick up on them. One of them is that it’s an artificial intelligence film, and it isn’t. It’s not about AI. Ex Machina’s about AI. Chappie’s not about artificial intelligence - it’s meant to be asking questions about what it means to be sentient.
Blomkamp also says Chappie’s reception “definitely hurt several parts” of his career.
I don’t necessarily agree that critics missed what he was getting at in Chappie (my review of the film mentions that it’s about what it means to be alive in the third sentence), but that’s fine. A director should stand by his work if he’s proud of it. And when it fails to connect with people, he or she shouldn’t point fingers. They should own it and move on.