Neil Blomkamp returned to theaters some four years after his feature-length directorial debut District 9 this month, with the bigger-budgeted sci-fi blockbuster Elysium. While the latter is nowhere near the same critical success as D9 (case in point, read our review), Elysium has done all right by itself at the U.S. box office – where it opened as the top choice for moviegoers this past weekend, thanks to the combination of Matt Damon’s star wattage and the public’s interest in Blokamp’s second helping of grisly sci-fi violence and allegory.

Regardless, Blomkamp already has his next project as director lined up and ready to begin shooting this year: Chappie, a new South Africa- based sci-project that – similar to District 9 – is based on one of Blomkamp’s short films, titled “Tetra Vaal.” Sony Pictures Entertainment and MRC are re-teaming to co-produce and finance the project, alongside producer Simon Kinberg (co-writer and producer on next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past).

Here is the official plot summary and main cast for Chappie (via Sony’s press release):

Chappie tells the story of a robot imbued with artificial intelligence who is stolen by two local gangsters who want to use him for their own nefarious purposes.  The film will star Sharlto Copley as the voice of Chappie, with Ninja and Yolandi Visser, voices of the South African Zef counter-culture movement and members of rap-rave duo Die Antwoord, as the two gangsters.

Copley – one of Blomkamp’s fellow South Africans and his frequent collaborator going back to the short film “Alive in Joburg” (which inspired District 9) – may well be playing the titular robot either via performance-capture or the similar “emotion-capture” approach (a technique used in recent tentpoles such as Oz the Great and Powerful). Sony’s press release doesn’t list Dev Patel as a cast member, so it’s possible that The Newsroom actor wasn’t able to work out a deal for him to play one of the human characters in Chappie after all.

Sharlto Copley as Kruger in the film ‘Elysium’

Blomkamp is working on the script for Chappie with his wife and District 9 co-screenwriter, Terri Tatchell. As was discussed by our editors during the Elysium installment of the Screen Rant Underground Podcast, that’s good to know – seeing how Elysium illustrates that Blomkamp is talented and imaginative at sci-fi world building, but (in this writer’s opinion) the movie falls well short in the script department. On his own, Blomkamp’s struggles to tell a captivating and thought-provoking sci-fi story (one which examines relevant and modern concerns).

The setup for Chappie, by comparison, doesn’t read as being so much of a blatant attempt to address big social issues – though, no doubt, Blomkamp and Tatchell’s script will do that (to some degree). More interesting, perhaps, is the project’s description as a comedy – given that the few instances of humor found in District 9 and Elysium suggest that Blomkamp the filmmaker has something of a darkly-twisted funny bone. (My prediction: Chappie will be more of a satire than anything else.)

Chappie doesn’t have an official release date yet, but Blomkamp is slated to begin principal photography sometime in Fall 2013. As always, we’ll keep you posted as more information becomes available.

Source: Sony Pictures