The plot of director Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi sleeper hit District 9 seems to unfold uncannily like that of a video game, with a main character who starts out on one side of a war but eventually finds himself fighting his former allies. All this is due to an alien infection in his hand that causes him to gradually mutate, unlocking new abilities and weapon skills along the way and transforming from a somewhat weedy pencil-pusher into a force to be reckoned with. This might have something to do with the fact that District 9 was the film that Blomkamp made after Fox and Universal got cold feet on his planned movie adaptation of the Halo video game franchise.
A live-action Halo adaptation is now on the way in one form, as an Xbox One-exclusive TV show produced by Steven Spielberg (though the extent to which Spielberg will actually be involved is unclear). Blomkamp also managed to quite easily rise from the ashes of his Halo movie with the low-budget, highly successful District 9, which was made with the help of Peter Jackson and The Hobbit producer Fran Walsh.
It seems strange to think of someone’s career being launched by a movie that died in development hell, but in an interview with the LA Times Blomkamp expresses few regrets about losing Halo. In fact, the director found that its failure to launch was a valuable learning experience, and has since shaped the way he approaches filmmaking in the wake of District 9‘s success:
“The luck is the fact that Peter and Fran let me make [‘District 9’] out of the ruins that were ‘Halo.’ What happened out of that was learning to trust my ideas. If ‘Halo’ had come out and succeeded or failed, I wouldn’t have learned that.”
After District 9, Blomkamp says that the offers for big-budget movies began to come in thick and fast, but because of his experiences with Halo he had attained a natural wariness of Hollywood in general, and of franchises where he would be required to build on or adapt existing stories with studio pressure to make them in a certain way:
“It’s getting to the point now where [my agent] just doesn’t send me stuff anymore. It’s not because I think I’m better than any of that stuff. There are many franchises out there I would love to participate in. The problem is when you agree to do that, you take a lot of the control that you have over your own creative destiny away from yourself.”
District 9‘s lead Sharlto Copley has also seen his career take off since the success of the film, and Blomkamp found a place for him in Elysium as well, as a dangerous mercenary living planetside. In the starring role as Max, a worker who is hit with radiation poisoning and plots to find a way onto Elysium in order to cure himself, is major Hollywood star Matt Damon, who recalls that during their first meeting Blomkamp was exceedingly wary, as though he was “inviting a 400 pound gorilla into his laboratory.”
Whether or not Elysium will be a worthy follow-up to District 9 remains to be seen, but Blomkamp’s words raise some interesting questions about the direction his career might take in the future, and whether he is likely to work on any more franchise material or simply stick with original ideas like his upcoming sci-fi comedy Chappie. Give your thoughts in the comments on what kind of movies you’d like to see Blomkamp making.
Elysium is out in theaters on August 9, 2013. The Halo TV series doesn’t yet have a release date, but will most likely arrive some time in 2014.
Source: LA Times