An escaped robot that becomes intelligent sounds like the plotline of the ’80s comedy Short Circuit. But the vision of the director does a lot to determine the tone of a film, and no one will mistake the new film Chappie, directed by Neill Blomkamp, for anything other than a sci-fi romp.

“If anyone liked [Blomkamp’s debut] District 9, which I loved, it has got that same feel,” Hugh Jackman said at the Berlin premiere. “It is a science fiction film, but it is very realistic and incredibly touching. It also makes you think a little bit.” Jackman plays an engineer who builds human-controlled robots to fight crime in South Africa. When his boss (Sigourney Weaver) greenlights an A.I. model by a rival developer (Dev Patel), crime surges, and a prototype named Chappie escapes.

Patel called the experience of filming with Blomkamp in South Africa “amazing.” “The crews were so happy to work with him, because he is a hero there.” Weaver called herself “a huge admirer” of Blomkamp and said she jumped at the chance to work with him because his script was so original.

The two will have the chance to work together again—the director has been tapped to helm the upcoming Alien sequel, which will see the actress returning as Ripley. Chappie opens in Japan May 23.