How a Failed ‘Halo’ Movie Defines Neill Blomkamp’s Entire Career

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Sony

Racing fans, PlayStation junkies, Orlando Bloom loyalists: All fall within the Venn diagram of demographics courted by Gran Turismo, the new video game adaptation racing into theaters nationwide Aug. 25. What you won’t find in the inescapable advertisements for this movie is much evidence of who made it. Blink and you’ll miss his name during the official trailer, where it flashes by at Jann Mardenborough-like speed. And it’s nowhere to be found on the posters, which play up the brand, the cast, the based-on-a-true-story angle… really, everything except the fact that Gran Turismo is the newest film from the once hotly in-demand director of District 9. How far has Neill Blomkamp’s stock fallen that studios are now practically hiding his involvement with a project?

Gran Turismo is as work-for-hire as any movie Blomkamp has ever helmed, the kind of unabashed crowd-pleaser you tackle to free yourself from director jail and maybe prove to the industry that you’ve still got some hit-making fuel in the tank. A rousingly old-fashioned sports drama that doubles as a commercial for the games, the film retells the unlikely true story of how British teenager Mardenborough traded the virtual steering wheel for a real one, translating his gaming skills into an actual racing career. It’s the only feature on Blomkamp’s resume that he didn’t write himself, and there are few traces of the narrative obsessions that have defined his progressively less popular sci-fi thrillers. At a glance, you probably wouldn’t guess that this was the work of the same guy who once combined The Office, The Fly, and a dozen other disparate influences into an elaborate apartheid allegory.

Yet in at least one way, Gran Turismo also represents a kind of career culmination for Blomkamp. At last, the South African-Canadian filmmaker has fulfilled his destiny to make a video game movie! In an unofficial sense, he’s been making those all along. While folks like Paul W.S. Anderson and the infamous Uwe Boll have churned out licensed console-to-theater adaptations (many of them critically reviled), arguably no one has brought the spirit of video games to the big screen as consistently as Blomkamp. In aesthetics, in pacing, in structure, his movies betray a D-pad addiction.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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