Neill Blomkamp’s first three features were all heavily laced with sociopolitical commentary and reflections on class, but the law of diminishing returns set in pretty quickly. District 9 earned almost eight times its production budget back at the box office, receiving rave reviews and a Best Picture nomination, but things nosedived from there.
The filmmaker’s sophomore feature Elysium earned $286 million globally and was well-received, if hardly to the same extent as his debut, but Chappie was a flop whichever way you try and cut it. Blomkamp wrote the script as the first part of a planned trilogy, but a weak Rotten Tomatoes score of 32% and just a shade over $100 million earned from theaters put an end to any plans for further installments.
It’s not an awful film by any stretch of the imagination, but it was an inferior retread of themes and subtext we’d seen twice already from Blomkamp, and in a new interview he revealed that the tepid reception afforded to Chappie may have ended up costing him Alien 5.
“It’s possible that Ridley watched Chappie and he was like, ‘This guy can’t do Alien so let’s just go ahead and move on’. I also felt bad for Sigourney because she was really into what I had brought forward. I felt like for audiences who loved Aliens, there was an opportunity to do one more film with Sigourney in a way that may have satiated what people were looking for and what I think I was looking for. What doesn’t make sense is that I feel like it’s what the audience wanted so it’s strange because Fox would never really turn down money. I’m not gonna work on a film for two years and have the rug pulled out from underneath me and then go hang out and have beers. It’s exactly why I don’t want to do IP based on other people’s stuff ever again.”
Blomkamp was set to tackle his first franchise effort by bringing back Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and Michael Biehn’s Hicks for a direct sequel to James Cameron’s Aliens, but the studio suddenly got cold feet and decided to move forward with Ridley Scott’s Promethus instead. While it remains up for debate whether or not Chappie played any part in Fox’s decision, it can’t be entirely ruled out when they went with a safe pair of veteran hands as opposed to someone with just a trio of movies under their belt and no experience in the realm of recognizable IP.