Director – Neill Blomkamp (District 9)
Cast – Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver
Plot – Tech wiz Deon Wilson (Patel) unlocks the ability to create fully functioning A.I that has a consciousness, a consciousness he uploads into the body of a defunct police robot that will come to be known as Chappie (Copley). When criminals Ninja and Yolandi (played by music duo Die Antwoord) get their hands on Chappie, things start to go pear shaped.
“People are always fearful of something they don’t understand”
Review by Eddie on 19/03/2015
Director Neill Blomkamp will perhaps forever have his projects unfairly compared to his outstanding directional debut District 9, it’s the downside of having such a memorable and accomplished debut and after his somewhat lacking yet still hugely enjoyable secondary feature Elysium failed to garner much public goodwill, we now find Blomkamp back in South Africa once more and back with an all new form of robot in the guise of the childlike Chappie.
With a delayed release here in Australia it’s interesting to note just how poor Chappie’s reception has been overseas, where America in particular has seen it gross some extremely lowly Box Office figures and an even more worryingly unfavourable critical reception. Taking this into account one would suspect Blomkamp has gone off the deep end but I for one am happy to be able to defend Chappie as a highly enjoyable and often startlingly unique Sci-Fi tale that is not at all dissimilar to an adult ordinated fairy tale with a visual aesthetic akin to a Terry Gilliam futuristic piece, thanks largely to the colourful and graffiti laden input from South African hip-hop duo Die Antwoord.
Chappie is a film filled with abundant flaws and lacklustre story telling but it’s also a film you can’t help but feel a strange sense of admiration for as it seemingly cares very little in adhering to the staples of its genre conventions. The mere casting of Ninja and Yo-landi from Die Antwoord in the films major human roles suggests Blomkamp wanted his film to have a fresh flavour, as it’s not as though he can’t attract a name actor to a lead role, a fact supported by Elysium’s Matt Damon before this and the appearance of Hugh Jackman in a major supporting turn here. Blomkamp is without question an original, District 9 was the undisputable attesting to this, Elysium was the throwaway reminding of it and now Chappie is the embodiment of his giddy childlike enthusiasm to imbue his Sci-Fi worlds with a colour and flavour, that if you’re willing to go along with, will create an entertaining and totally enjoyable time at the movies.
What frustrates with Chappie the film and Blomkamp the filmmaker here is the fact that you can see more potential than what was realized. Chappie as played by Blomkamp’s old friend Sharlto Copley is an interesting and living character yet you can’t help but feel there was more to explore within this robot’s awakening and most human characters here with particular mention of the increasingly annoying Dev Patel as tech wizard Deon are anything but endearing. Hugh Jackman, sporting the beginnings of a flourishing mullet, has fun with tough guy Vincent but the film’s most original and interesting players are Ninja and Yo-landi as street wise gangsters. This is not to say these two possess a great handle of the acting medium, actually it’s very far from it, but they give Chappie an unpredictable nature, a Redbull infused energy that helps the film become such an adrenaline filled rush on more than one occasion, especially when the action ramps up to 11.
It might not have the heart and soul District 9 had or the huge budget spectacle that Elysium possessed but Chappie is another hugely entertaining and often highly unique Sci-Fi yarn by Blomkamp. With news recently announced of Blomkamp’s involvement in the Aliens franchise, on the back of this effort I for one am still strongly in favour of him taking the reigns, in what will hopefully be another hugely enjoyable trip to worlds unknown.
3 and a half PS4 consoles out of 5