Rise Of The Machine
From District 9 to Elysium, Neill Blomkamp's movies are always a feast for the eyes. With his latest movie Chappie, now in cinemas, these exclusive pictures from new book Chappie: The Art Of The Movie (available from Titan Books) go behind the scenes of the robot drama to show how Blomkamp built his very own artificial intelligence.
The Moose Den
Concept art from the movie shines some industrial overhead lighting on the birthplace of Chappies intimidating nemesis, the Moose. Its room brutal, functional and clinical is also a refection of the Mooses creator and controller, Vincent, played by a snarling Hugh Jackman with a Travolta-esque disregard for the finer points of personal grooming. The rooms so different than anything else, in the film," says Set Designer Daniel Birt. We've got all these other crazy sets, and then we get into this hard, graphic, contrasty Moose Room. That's been the interesting thing about the job, the diversity in sets, and how different they are, but all together in the same film.
Moose on the loose
Moose is a bit like ED 209s smarter, harder brother, one that crucially can actually handle a set of stairs. He is however just as graceful as his RoboCop sibling, given to aggressive, lumbering posturing and a dedication to unconventional urban re-shaping that would make Michael Bay proud. This contrasts with its more successful rival, the Scout robot cops: agile, detached, and efficient. The bots also embody their designers outlooks the Scouts mirror young Deons progressive outlook, Moose gives full reign to jealous, threatened Vincents need to control through fear and intimidation. Here, concept art shows the Moose suffering a little wear and tear.
Concept art shows Scout robots giving crime a black eye on the mean streets of near-future Johannesburg, South Africa. Its a damaged model one of these Scouts that becomes the prototype for Deons next-gen Artificial Intelligence program. But their human-ish design wasnt just to get us to sympathize with Chappie The scouts are anthropomorphic in shape, explains director Neill Blomkamp, because if you were to switch out the police force, you would want the robots to be able to economize costs by using the same guns, being able to drive the cars, and not require an upgrade of the entire system."
Do reprogrammed AI robo-cops dream of electric sheep? Chappie gazes out reflectively over Johannesburg in this bit of concept art. As with District 9 and Elysium, Blomkamps sci-fi takes you to dinner at Pete & Bernies Philosophical Steakhouse, the question here being when does a being become truly alive? Chappies inventor Deon (Dev Patel) certainly thinks hes created the next big step of evolution with his artificially intelligent creation. His program allows the subject to feel emotions fear, anger, love and make decisions independent of any human input. As Chappies mind quickly evolves from baby to adolescent, absorbing everything from the broad (and occasionally less-than-legal) array of influences around him, he must deal with its psychological fall-out too.
Before there was Dev, there was this young Timothy Hutton? This early concept art of Chappies creator Deon reveals that Slumdogs Dev Patel wasnt always in director Neill Blomkamps mind for the part. However, the actors youth, openness and earnestness made him ideal for the role as the pure influence in Chappies life. But if Deons in the blue corner for the battle for the impressionable robots soul, the red corner is very much occupied by the (real) South African anarcho-punks Die Antwoord. Here theyre lightly fictionalised as a Joberg criminal gang who steal, adopt and then steer their new AI super-cop buddy into philosophical and ethical grey areas.
When Sharlto met Chappie
I dont think my character would say it like that Actor Sharlto Copley hams it up or is that RAMs it up? on set with a model of his movie alter ego Chappie. The third time hes done front of camera duties for Nell Blomkamp, the District 9 star used motion capture to play the slowly sentient police droid, taking the character from its physical and psychological baby steps through to difficult teenage years and into badass adulthood. Its pretty much a character actors dream, Copley suggests. Chappie comes into this world as a baby basically, and forms his personality on camera.
Guns. Lots of guns.
Things people liked about District 9: the savage social commentary on racism and immigration. Things people really liked about District 9: the Cameron-esque fantasy of very heavy metal, which duly wrought eye-catching devastation on a spectacular scale. Thankfully director Neill Blomkamp literally brings the big guns to his vision of law enforcements future in Chappie. Here he poses with some of his heavy artillery on set. Were guessing everyone hit their marks that day.
What do you do when youve got your own pet double-hard robo-cop? Well, if youre a gang of in debt criminals here played by anarcho-punks Die Antwoord you use it to knock off huge, well-guarded scores to pay off angry mobsters. Filming huge action sequences like this involved shutting down one of the main arteries of Johannesburg. Art Director Emilia Weavind credits the success of these outdoor shoots on the cooperation between art department and the locations department, run by Robert Bentley and Edu Klarenbeek. They can close down any highway, or a couple of inner city blocks, and with careful collaboration us messy art ones can be in and out in a day and trash blocks of streets... and come deadline time, the streets will be squeaky clean again, ready for the usual mayhem.
While Chappies existence sends the authorities headlined by Blomkamps future Alien V leading lady Sigourney Weaver into a tyrannical tizzy over its practical and ethical issues, the flip side of Chappies existential conundrum is the monstrous Moose, remotely controlled by a human through a neural transmitter helmet. Unfortunately, the human in question is Hugh Jackmans Vincent, left embittered and jealous after being outshone by Deons Scout program, with the Moose giving him the ability to unleash his deepest id with unpleasant impunity. This is Neill Blomkamps own sketch of the neural helmet station from which Vincent controls his creation. Chappie is in cinemas now. Chappie: The Art Of The Movie is also out now from Titan Books.