With his new movie Chappie out next week, the director has taken a long, hard look at what went awry with his last film.
Neill Blomkamp‘s Elysium was one of the most highly anticipated films of 2013. Following the out-of-nowhere success of his 2009 feature debut, District 9, Elysium was supposed to confirm Blomkamp‘s status as a major new voice in science fiction cinema -- until it didn't.
Elysium was based around some great concepts that promised the same mix of exciting sci-fi storytelling and social commentary as its predecessor. But something went wrong as the movie's themes came across as too heavy-handed and were eventually all but abandoned in a nonstop fusillade of noisy, chaotic, badly edited action sequences. For fans of District 9, the film was a shocking disappointment.
Well, apparently Blomkamp thinks so, too. Doing the press rounds for Chappie, the South African writer/director explained in a new interview with Uproxx why he thought the film didn't work -- and held himself solely responsible:
I feel like, ultimately, the story is not the right story. I still think the satirical idea of a ring, filled with rich people, hovering above the impoverished Earth, is an awesome idea. I love it so much, I almost want to go back and do it correctly. But I just think the script wasn’t...I just didn’t make a good enough film is ultimately what it is.
I feel like I executed all of the stuff that could be executed, like costume and set design and special effects, very well. But, ultimately, it was all resting on a somewhat not totally formed skeletal system, so the script just wasn’t there; the story wasn’t fully there.
So, if the story wasn't there, as Blomkamp says, couldn't he have worked at fixing it? His response is even more self-analytical:
The problem with me is I get so caught up in concepts and ideas. Like I just said, the ring is so cool. The satirical idea of a diamond encrusted ring above, like, slums is such a satirically cool idea – I’m not like a normal person in the sense that I have to have a story for something to be interesting. Concepts are just as interesting to me as stories are. Where, to normal people, stories are more interesting. So, that’s an example of what I mean. I can be like, “F**k, I love this ring, I love all the visual effects related to it, I love these images and how they’re juxtaposed with one another.” And then be like, “as a director, I could have done better.” And you sort of realize that all these people prefer this element I didn’t pay as much attention to, but I paid a lot of attention to this.
It's interesting to hear a director critique his own work, not to mention himself, so candidly, especially just two features into his career. The question now is whether Blomkamp has applied the lessons learned from Elysium to Chappie, and whether he'll continue to grow as a filmmaker as he heads into making a new Alien movie and whatever other projects lie in his future. We'll get some idea of this on March 6, when Chappie opens.
Do you agree with Blomkamp‘s thoughts on why Elysium was a letdown? Regardless of where you stand on that movie, is it refreshing to hear a filmmaker speak so honestly about his work?