It’s rare for filmmakers to admit that a movie they directed didn’t work. But that’s what Neill Blomkamp just did in a fascinating interview with Den of Geek, in which the director admits that although he still loves his film Chappie, it had a variety of problems, including its inability to connect with an audience.
[Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article asserted Blomkamp described Chappie as bad, instead of not working. This has been corrected. —RB]
In the interview, the director admitted his last film, Chappie, wasn’t what he wanted it to be.
I’m still upset the fact that it didn’t work. I wish that it did, but it just didn’t, and I still love it. I don’t know what else to say, but the audience didn’t get what I was going for. It didn’t work.
That’s pretty honest and part of a larger statement where Blomkamp questions the nature of art. He asks, if Chappie is the movie he wanted to make, but audiences rejected it, does that devalue his art? Is art defined by its artist or audience? It’s an interesting question and the answer certainly changes depending on your point of view.
So what specifically didn’t work in Chappie? Blomkamp elaborated a bit.
It was directed in such a way that some ideas didn’t come across. For whatever reason, there were many elements that critics in general didn’t pick up on them. One of them is that it’s an artificial intelligence film, and it isn’t. It’s not about AI. Ex Machina’s about AI. Chappie’s not about artificial intelligence - it’s meant to be asking questions about what it means to be sentient.
Which is fine, that could just be a misstep. It’s this quote that really shows the disconnect between the Chappie audiences saw and the movie Blomkamp had in his head.
The main reason for Chappie existing in my mind is because it has the most farcical, weird, comic, non-serious pop-culture tone, that is almost mocking or making fun of the fact that it’s talking about the deepest things you can talk about. The fact that those two things exist in the same film is what the film is about. Because that’s what the experience of life is about. It’s an unknowable question, and no one’s going to answer it for you.
So it’s almost a grand joke, in a sense. That was the main thing. People confuse that by saying the film was tonally all over the map. And it’s because they couldn’t comprehend that the tone was existing as one, united thing; it was saying, “Here’s the most important thing you can talk about, wrapped up in a farcical giant joke that looks like we’re all having a big laugh.” And that was the point. Because that’s how I view life in general.
Now, is that the truth? We’ll never know for sure. The idea of the film being purposefully crazy could be justification created after the fact. But I think Blomkamp is being so honest in this interview, it’s okay to take him at his word. At this point, what does he gain by lying?
Either way, Blomkamp’s interview with Den of Geek is a fascinating look inside the mind of a filmmaker with all the promise in the world, but only one great film under his belt. Blomkamp is currently working on a project called Oats Studios, and you can read more about it, and the full interview, below.