Neil Blomkamp's Oats Studios Shorts


#1

Neil Blomkamp, the visionary director behind District 9 and the slightly less visionary director/producer of Elysium and Chappie has launched has put out two new short films through his Oats Studio project.

The business model here is probably the most interesting thing. Blomkamp and Co put the short, action-packed effects heavy films out for free, but encourage people to tell their own stories in the narrative sandboxes they’ve created by paying for CGI assets (through Steam of all platforms).

Sadly, I feel that the business model is the most interesting thing about the work so far. The goal might be to encourage people to download assets so that they can tell their own stories in a compelling world they’ve created, but it feels more like they’ve thrown together a sketch of a story for an infomercial that justifies an aesthetic that unites the assets.

Rakka, which is about an alien invasion and does some decent characterization and has some creepy images, could do with more of a plot. I don’t have any complaints about it beyond it being barebones, really, and there are worse ways to spend 20 minutes if you don’t mind body horror.

Their second full release is Firebase, a Vietnam War themed short which tells more of a story but makes me wish they hadn’t. It’s absurdly tone deaf, and is clearly structured around shoe-horning in FX props. Pretty heavy on the body horror here too.

Bonus: They’ve also put out this 3 minute parody informercial which honestly just makes me want to go watch Cinco ads from Tim and Eric.

Well, that’s a rough sketch of my feelings on their work so far, although I have a ton more to say about Firebase. What do the good people of Waypoint think of these offerings? Feel free to voice enthusiastic support, I’d love to hear from people who really dug this stuff! But I’m just, not at all impressed and wasn’t about to disguise that fact.


#2

I watched Rakka yesterday and I found it to be good. The story and characters were intriguing to follow, and the special effects were also great. I didn’t exactly understand what the ending was getting at though. I could see a movie out of this with a wider range of characters.

Firebase’s story (from the first few minutes I watched of it) didn’t interest me as much as Rakka. The scene of the bodies floating kept me in for a while, but the short felt like a fan movie later on. The dialogue was extremely bland compared to Rakka, which led me to turn it off for a while.

I’m up for whatever’s next from Oats Studio, considering how Rakka seemed like a great step forward from Blomkamp. I just wonder if he’ll make something that’s on the same level of quality as District 9 again.


#3

Yeah, you can tell there are multiple teams working on these pieces.

Rakka’s writing’s notably better, and the acting actually works. Mild CIA man from Firebase has bad lines and it feels like he’s channeling the blond dude from Narcos but with the direction to “just be a good guy with zero moral complications.”

It’s also pretty freaking hard to feel sympathetic for the Americans at all, since even if you can view them as victims of the same geopolitical circumstances as the locals, the “bad guy” is a pissed off villager who is shown gaining his super powers while surrounded by his burning home and murdered family. Hero Protagonist’s only motivation is that he has a “destiny.”

There’s also a pretty sloppy moment where a guy gets referred to as a corporal right before the CIA dude says addresses him as a sergeant, only to refer to him as a corporal again two lines later.

The one bit I like is that when they get to the titular firebase and they have “Fortunate Son” or some other quintessential 'Nam song blaring over the load speaker but it’s almost entirely drowned out by the din of the base operating. Really strips some of the glamour off the typical Vietnam War movie’s vibe, but I’m not convinced it was intentional.


#4

As a big Blomkamp apologist (I thought Chappie was great, HUSH), I was kinda disappointed in Rakka. Felt like a lot of sketches for a world but not a compelling story, and there was a little too much clunkiness in the writing. Sigourney was a nice surprise, but otherwise, a little rote for me…? Hoping that the other stuff (I’ve yet to watch Firebase) is better, he’s an interesting dude.


#5

Chappie was pretty fun! But there were was a lot going on that I felt like required more than just “fun,” and I’m not just talking about the singularity happening in the background or the fact that Die Antwoord apparently spent all their record sales on anti-aging treatments.


#6

New short just came out.

4 minute short to hold people over until Zygote (July 12th).

The CGI in Zygote is amazing from the looks of it, so I’m excited for that one.


#7

Zygote came out.