I first discovered the work of director Neill Blomkamp back in 2005 when his sci-fi short film Alive in Joburg took the internet by storm. This was pre-iPhone and just at the inception of YouTube. Even today, over 15 years later, I still remember being utterly captivated by that 6-minute short. The innovative CGI, the immersive world-building, and the underlying social commentary immediately marked Blomkamp as a fresh new talent to watch.
When Alive in Joburg first made the rounds on Youtube and various film blogs, I was entranced and eager to see what Blomkamp would come up with next. It seemed he was attached to everything. I was not disappointed when District 9 arrived in 2009. It embodied everything I had loved about Alive in Joburg, but expanded to an epic scope and scale.
I was surprised to learn he’s directing a movie based on the popular video game Gran Turismo. Blomkamp is known for his gritty, realistic style, so a movie about a racing game seems like an odd choice for him.
However, Blomkamp has said that he was drawn to the story of Gran Turismo because it is about “the power of dreams” and the ability to achieve anything if you set your mind to it. He also said that he wanted to make a movie that would appeal to both fans of the video game and those who are not familiar with it. I’m not familiar but also not really interested in the True Story it’s based on.
Neill Blomkamp burst onto the scene in 2009 with his critically acclaimed debut film, District 9. The science fiction thriller, which Blomkamp wrote and directed, told the story of an alien refugee camp in Johannesburg, South Africa. District 9 was a commercial and critical success, earning over $210 million worldwide and being nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Elysium, was also a commercial success as it’s highly watchable, but it was not as well-received critically. The film, which was set in a dystopian future where the wealthy live on a space station while the poor live on a polluted Earth, was criticized for its simplistic plot and uneven tone. It’s not a memorable film.
Blomkamp’s third film, Chappie, was a critical and commercial failure. The film, which was about a robot who is given artificial intelligence, was criticized for its uneven tone and lack of focus.
Since Chappie, Blomkamp has directed a few short films and a television series, but he has not released a feature film. There have been several projects that Blomkamp has been attached to that have not come to fruition, including a film adaptation of the video game Halo and a sequel to District 9.
So why hasn’t Blomkamp’s career lived up to the promise of District 9? There are a few possible reasons.
One possibility is that Blomkamp’s style has become too predictable. His films all tend to have a similar look and feel, and they often deal with similar themes of social inequality and technological alienation. This can make his films feel samey and unexciting.
- District 9 (2009): A science fiction thriller about an alien refugee camp in Johannesburg, South Africa.
- Elysium (2013): A dystopian future film set in a world where the wealthy live on a space station while the poor live on a polluted Earth.
- Chappie (2015): A science fiction film about a robot who is given artificial intelligence.
- Zygote (2017): A short film about a couple who are attacked by a creature in the Arctic. Watch the short film on Oats Studios’ website.
- Firebase (2017): A short film about a group of soldiers who are haunted by a mysterious event in Vietnam.
- Demonic (2021): A horror film about a woman who is possessed by a demon.
Blomkamp has also directed a few short films that are not available to watch online, including:
- Alive in Joburg (2005): A short film that was the basis for District 9.
- Tetra Vaal (2009): A short film about a man who is haunted by a creature.
- Rakka (2017): A short film about a world overrun by aliens.