Neill Blomkamp‘s next project, Chappie — a followup to this summer’s modest success Elysium and 2008’s breakout hit District 9 — already piqued interest when the director cast aggressive South African rap duo Die Antwoord (Ninja and Yolandi Visser) as two thugs who steal an artificially intelligent robot voiced by Blomkamp’s friend and frequent collaborator Sharlto Copley. Now, the film has added Hugh Jackman to its small cast (which also includes Dev Patel), playing an as yet unknown part. Chappie will be science fiction, but rather than a serious tale about one man’s fight against a system of inequality, Blomkamp has described it as “if you mixed RoboCop with E.T. and it was… funny.” Judging from the early parts of District 9, which mined comedy out of a Copley slowly transforming into an alien, coming up with outlandish ways a few thugs could use and react to a talking robot seems an easy way for Blomkamp to inject some humor. And with Die Antewoord’s characters hoping to use the robot for criminal purposes, it should also touch on Blomkamp’s favored themes of class disparity and poverty. The film, shooting soon in Johannesburg, will gain Jackman early next year for a few weeks. Back in South Africa, back to a small budget, and back to work — it sounds like a return to form for Blomkamp.
Given that Jackman’s two films earlier this year — The Wolverine and Movie 43 — both underperformed/were terrible, it’s good to see this announcement following the release of the competent Prisoners. Jackman has been working an overstuffed schedule for the past year, but if that means he takes the time to lend a little time to Blomkamp and what sounds like a pretty idiosyncratic film, then it sounds worth it. Chappie has an anticipated release in spring 2015.