Four days after "Elysium" hit theaters, the science fiction movie's backers announced Tuesday that they have greenlighted director Neill Blomkamp's next film, "Chappie."
Sony Pictures Entertainment and MRC will once again co-produce and co-finance the Blomkamp project, this one from a script the 33-year-old director wrote with his wife, "District 9" screenwriter Terri Tatchell.
According to a press release issued by Sony and MRC, "Chappie" "tells the story of a robot imbued with artificial intelligence who is stolen by two local gangsters who want to use him for their own nefarious purposes."
"'Chappie' would be like 'RoboCop,' but hilarious," Blomkamp said in an interview in July, referencing Paul Verhoeven's 1987 sci-fi film about a cyborg police officer. "If you mixed 'Robocop' with 'E.T.' and it was... funny, that's what it is."
Like Blomkamp's first feature, "District 9," "Chappie" will be set in his home city of Johannesburg, South Africa, and star his longtime friend and frequent collaborator, South African actor Sharlto Copley, as the voice of Chappie the robot. Ninja and Yolandi Visser, the flamboyant members of South African rap-rave duo Die Antwoord play the two gangsters.
"District 9," an Apartheid allegory, and "Elysium," which deals with income disparity, both earned Blomkamp a reputation as a filmmaker with a political voice. "Chappie," Blomkamp said, will tackle different thematic terrain.
"'Chappie' is a little bit outside the realm of those films in that there's no sociopolitical element to it at all," Blomkamp said in an interview in July. "It's about another topic that is pretty cool -- sentience."
After Blomkamp's $30-million debut, "District 9," became a sleeper hit and collected a surprise best picture nomination, "Elysium," which cost $115 million and stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, was his first experience with bigger-budget Hollywood filmmaking. The movie got a tepid response from critics but opened No. 1 at the box office, making $30.5 million last weekend.
With "Chappie," Blomkamp will return to a filmmaking style that is more modest in scope, according to Copley.
"He's back to a smaller budget level," Copley said in an interview in May. "Creatively it's a better fit for him."
He'll also be back on his home soil, which Blomkamp has said he finds fertile ground for ideas.
"A lot of America is kind of done," Blomkamp said. "People have been making films about it for 100 years. Everything to me feels used up. But Jo-Burg feels unbelievably inspirational to me. It has all of the first world elements -- there are places where it feels like you could be in Detroit or Minneapolis mixed with, on the horizon is basically complete chaos and societal collapse."
"Chappie" will begin filming in Johannesburg in September. A release date has not yet been set.