Sharlto Copley Ninja Yo-Landi Visser Dev Patel Hugh Jackman Sigourney Weaver
His second bust in a row, South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp exploded onto the scene in 2009 with District 9. Nominated for best picture that year, Blomkamp became the guy to watch. His second feature Elysium took him away from the small budget workings and put him in summer movie territory, where he delivered a big disappointment. To be fair, Elysium isn’t as big of a disappointment as Chappie. Yet again Blomkamp’s script and direction use on the nose allegory to create conversation, this time on human treatment of non-humans. It’s a robot movie, and not a very good one. Clearly Hugh Jackman didn’t get his feet wet enough with robots after his family Robot movie bomb Reel Steel or fighting robots in X-Men.
In 2016, Johannesburg has gotten control of the crime wave, becoming the first city to implement a fully robotic police force. The criminals are scared and the city has experienced reform and peace. Robotic mastermind Deon Wilson (Patel) continues to work on advancing his machines, but the nearly indestructible and fully controllable metal officers are a hit which means big business for his employer. Disobeying orders, Wilson re-programs deactivated officer #22 with a new operating system that will allow this robot to learn, respond and think for itself. It quickly falls into the wrong hands, as Wilson is kidnapped and the robot, named Chappie, is mentored by underground criminals.
The brilliance that allowed the audience to care about the aliens in District 9 doesn’t work the same with robots. Every character here is a bad guy in some way, Blomkamp isn’t interested in exploring hero’s; Which is fine, those are overrated anyway. However it does make it difficult finding a reason to care who lives, dies or achieves their desired goal. The trio of criminals named Ninja (Daddy), Yolandi (Mommie) and Amerika are a mix between Bilbo’s Trolls in The Hobbit and Lady GaGa backup singers; although Visser who plays Yolandi might owe GaGa some royalties with her cropped hair and wardrobe. Both Patel (Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and Jackman (X-Men) play supporting roles and are off screen for large amounts of time.
One of the biggest indications (from the audience) that Chappie isn’t working is a scene where the robot returns home after being brutalized. Chappie’s electronic voice and the choreography of the scene, which was intended to be a touching moment (as indicated by the swelling of Hans Zimmer’s score) is instead met with laughter and giggles. Chappie is an overlong slog of ruthless characters, predictable violence and another additional to the boring robot genre. It was refreshing to see Jackman play a mullet inspired villain, and to be a weaker character than he typically portrays. However, Blomkamp needs to beware of the M. Night Shymalan downfall, his career seems to be on a disturbingly similar path.
Final Thought – Chappie goes crappy pretty quick.
By: Dustin Chase