This weekend, Neill Blomkamp‘s “Chappie” opens in theaters (read our review), and the heap of negative notices the movie has received has perturbed fans of the “Alien” franchise, which the director is set to revive. But you should keep an open mind and see it on the big screen, because while it’s undoubtedly flawed and even silly “Chappie” is nonetheless endearingly sweet, totally bonkers and quite original. In any case, expectations will be higher than ever on the filmmaker, who was considered a major sci-fi talent following “District 9.” He’s clearly cognizant of the commitment, energy and passion it takes to make a movie, and while he might have his doubts about studio franchise gigs, “Alien” is the exception.
“The truth about projects that are my own… the thing that’s annoying about films is that they take three years to make,” he told IGN. “It’s a constant thing that I face all the time, which is that whatever you commit to, you’re going to be out of the game with everything else, and you’re going to be doing this one thing for that amount of time. That’s a very true thing, so that would still be my answer to almost everything, it’s just that ‘Alien’ isn’t almost everything. ‘Alien’ is the one thing that’s just… I actually think it’s the first science-fiction film I ever saw. And it’s my first memory of film. So it’s just emblazoned into my head in a way that… it would be a shame for me to not do it for myself. Even if it doesn’t live up to want people want, for my own self I need to at least try.”
Blomkamp continues to stay mum on the details of where his installment will fit into the “Alien” timeline, but he already knows the very high bar he faces given the near untouchable status of the first two movies.
“I think that the combination of what Ridley [Scott] did and the usage of Giger’s Freudian sexual terror imagery and the set-up of the first film and then what [James] Cameron did with the second film – just the perfect storm of what those ingredients were, and for my own visual style and what I like, it was just this weird, perfect unity of everything, you know? I think that’s really what it is,” he explained. “I can’t think of anything that comes close to it in terms of an existing franchise. And my other favourite character – though I don’t want to participate in this world – is Batman. I think the Chris Nolan Batman films are incredible. For me – for my own aesthetic and taste, I think they’re amazing. That’s a separate thing, that’s kind of character-driven. ‘Alien’ is a unique thing for me – it’s a unique storm of perfect ingredients.”
Perhaps the biggest struggle Blomkamp will face will be how he perceives his role in bringing the “Alien” movies to life, as he believes he’s more than a filmmaker.
“I don’t think I’m a movie director. I think I’m an artist, and for me movies are the pinnacle art form,” Blomkamp stated. “But the pinnacle art form requites 10s of millions or 100s of millions of dollars of other people’s money that needs to return an investment for them on their cash. And that means that there are certain things that come with that that limit you as an artist. So you can have full control on a film – ‘Chappie’ is as close to having virtual carte blanche on a film as you can have, less the fact that it’s two hours, and it has three acts. And, and, and, and… there’s a list, right? So it’s like if you want to create a thing that’s a piece of art that just really winds people up – something hyper offensive or crazy or whatever it might be – this is the wrong thing for you.”
It’ll be interesting to see where Blomkamp lands in juggling his desire for artistic expression with the realities of studio filmmakering. For now, “Chappie” hits cinemas today.