Neill Blomkamp broke-out as a filmmaker with the critically/financially-successful low-budget sci-fi film District 9, but he suffered a bit of a sophomore slump last year with Elysium. The latter earned an overall tepid critical response, but grossed $286 million worldwide on a $115 million budget – and more firmly established Blomkamp as a storyteller with a distinct voice (in terms of his interests and style) – so it was far away from being a complete failure, though.
Blomkamp will soon be back with another original sci-fi project in Chappie, featuring his frequent collaborator Sharlto Copley playing (via “poor man’s motion-capture”) the title character – a robot with the mind (and innocence) of a child. The film, similar to District 9, takes place in an alternate/semi-futuristic version of South Africa, where Chappie – the “first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself” according to the official synopsis – is manipulated by some local gangsters into doing their not so admirable bidding.
District 9‘s co-writer (and Blomkamp’s wife) Terri Tatchell collaborated with Blomkamp on the script for Chappie; judging by the official plot details and first trailer (watch it above), the movie seems a bit like a Pinocchio story crossed with a Blomkamp take on sociopolitical sci-fi genre fare. Similar to District 9, Chappie is a feature-length expanded version of Blomkamp’s earlier work – in this case his satirical short “Tetra Vaal” – and aims to build on that foundation.
Rounding out the Chappie cast are such big-name stars as Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver, in addition to the character actors Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Newsroom) and Jose Pablo Cantillo (Elysium). Not to mention, the South African rappers and Die Antwoord members Anri du Toit (a.k.a. Yolandi Visser) and Watkin Tudor Jones (a.k.a. Ninja) are playing themselves in Chappie. The film also has a new poster that we’ve included below (click the image to enlarge).
District 9 and Elysium are both very much sci-fi action movies, whereas Chappie seems to be more along the lines of a fairy tale told through the sci-fi genre. Much like Pinocchio, Copley’s robot is an innocent whose “father” (Patel’s character) and friends (Toit and Jones) aspire to guide him in the right direction – and to protect him from the dangers posed by the world around him (a darkly quirky universe right out of a fable, though with more sci-fi flavor).
In other words, although Marvel Studios’ upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron may reference Pinocchio (while this week’s Disney ‘toon Big Hero 6 also features a rather innocent robot), out of the upcoming robo-centric movies it’s Chappie that looks to be the most direct descendant of the Pinocchio story, on the surface and subtext-wise (a la Steven Spielberg’s A.I.). Let us know if you’re interested in Blomkamp’s new movie, in the comments section of this article.
Chappie opens in U.S. theaters on March 6th, 2015.