How much can you milk a genre before it turns sour and annoying? If you are in Hollywood, turns out it’s never enough.
The crux of Sci-Fi films has always been alien invasions, with the visitors trying to terrorize planet Earth and its innocent inhabitants. And more often than not, the aliens think of people of America as their prime targets. They are the pinnacle of human evolution, after all. The rest of humanity is playing second fiddle. So our heroes are entrusted with battling the invaders and regaining “control” of their homeland.
That’s doesn’t mean any of this is bad. It is fun, yes. We have had ground-breaking special effects, badass dialogues and the works. But what comes after? Just a cacophony of noises and senseless banter. The formula came in handy till Independence Day (the movie, not July 4th). Post this film, the audience just lost interest.
Then along came a relatively unknown movie called District 9, and changed the game altogether. The film was directed by a South African director named Neill Blomkamp. It is he who helped everyone understand that the most important thing Sci-Fi films needed was soul. Blomkamp based the movie in his hometown of Johannesburg. Why not America, you ask. Well, boo-frickin-hoo!
District 9 was unlike anything that anyone had ever seen before. The aliens weren’t the predators or the conquering hordes this time around. They were a subjugated group named ‘Roaches’. They were tortured and experimented upon, and weren’t given a chance to return to their home planet. And in the midst, was Sharlto Copley’s brilliant performance as a government agent who accidentally begins to transform into an alien. His portrayal is heart-wrenching as he faces rejection from people he once knew and is hunted down for being different. Sounds familiar? That’s because the theme resounds with that of Apartheid, which crippled South Africa in the last century.
Blomkamp’s second directorial venture was the highly-underrated Elysium. Once again, the director decided to go with a strong theme that resonates with the modern society. That of class divide. Except the rich now live on a space station called Elysium. And the poor and working-class people live on Earth. On Elysium, you are next to immortal and have fresh air to breathe. But one man named Max (a splendid Matt Damon) tries to get to Elysium to save his life, and eventually, he saves mankind.
Surprisingly though, both District 9 and Elysium flew under the radar with limited releases. Both these films were not “blockbusters”, but still found a loyal audience who swore by story-driven Science Fiction films. And in the true sense of the term, Neill Blomkamp rejuvenated the dying genre of Sci-Fi.
And now for his third Hollywood venture, the superbly talented writer-director gives us Chappie. And if the trailer is any indication, it will tell a moving tale of a A.I. robot, who tries to understand whether humanity is restricted to humans. Or if humanity exists at all. So do yourself a favor, and watch Chappie this weekend. I know I will. Because very rarely do you get to see a Sci-Fi rooted so much in emotion and its characters, and also because Neill Blomkamp is one of the best directors alive on this planet.
And here’s some good news: The next movie in the Alien franchise will be helmed by Blomkamp. This is reassuring news for fans of the franchise, especially after the dismal third and fourth films. Blomkamp is sure to pull out all stops and deliver a Sci-Fi movie worthy of the franchise. Also, the rumors indicate that it will be a 2 part finale. Ain’t that something!