Filmmaking is an incredibly tricky work of alchemy. Thousands of elements factor into the success or failure of any given film. Spend one day on a working set and you’ll see just how many minute decisions have to be made, how hard everyone works on getting each piece of the puzzle right, and how even the tiniest of these can affect the end result. That’s before the film even gets to the editing room. But what happens when your film turns out exactly how you wanted it to and it still bombs?
Neill Blomkamp can tell you a little bit about that, and in a refreshingly candid interview with Den of Geek (h/t /Film), the filmmaker opened up about the critical and commercial failure of Chappie — a film he loves. Blomkamp made a stunning debut in 2009 with District 9, the critical darling sci-fi film that earned four Oscar nominations and instantly became a sci-fi classic. His 2013 follow-up, Elysium, faced its fair share of criticism, but his 2015 effort, Chappie, was utterly throttled by critics and hastily dismissed at the box office with an anemic $31 million haul.
Here’s what he had to say,
“Chappie was unbelievably painful for me. That was difficult on several levels. But the thing with Chappie was, it felt like it was extremely close to the film I had in my head. Up until the film came out, I felt like I had given my all, and that I’d tried my hardest to make the film I had in my head, and I felt like I achieved that.
It put me in an interesting place, where I was needing to decide how I felt, when I create a piece of artwork that I feel positive about, and then the audience really rejects it – what does that mean? That puts you in an incredibly interesting space. I’m not judging the film based on box office merits or pure Rotten Tomatoes scores. I’m doing it because I love it, and I’m basing how I feel about it on what it makes me feel.