In a world where artificial intelligence is no longer science fiction and scientists edge closer and closer to creating sentient robots, ‘Chappie’ feels relevant and real world.
Helmed by ‘District 9’ director Neill Blomkamp, this movie, like many of his movie feel like they are actually happening somewhere in the world. Taking place in Johannesburg, the movie doesn’t act as a very good advertisement for South Africa. Crime, drugs and death abound, ‘Chappie’ is not what you expect it to be. Frankly, it is disappointing. False advertising plays a huge role in the disappointment I felt after seeing this movie.
‘Chappie’ promises thrills and originality, but ends up coming across as a desperate attempt at replicating an already beaten to death topic.
In the world ‘Chappie’ inhabits, Johannesburg, South Africa is experiencing a period of order after many years of high crime. This is due in part to a revolutionary idea to introduce a robotic police force in the city. With crime at an all time low and this robot program proving to be a huge success, the corporation that produces these robots, Tetra Vaal, is experiencing a massive profits.
When the robot’s creator Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) develops a program that allows the robots to think and feel for themselves, he steals one of these androids that is scheduled for decommission and the chip that allows them to be updated.
Without his knowledge, a plot is formed by a group of thugs to kidnap him so that they can make him turn off the robots, allowing them to pull off a massive heist. Over time, Wilson and these thugs teach this robot named Chappie a wide range of talents from painting to throwing ninja stars.
Chappie is very impressional in his early stages, allowing this gang to mold him into something that Deon didn’t intend. He helps them steal cars, rob a truck full of money, and kill several people. Granted, Chappie is mislead by these people so that he thinks he is putting them to sleep, not killing them.
Chappie also becomes obsessed with consciousness when he starts to realize his own mortality. He was due to be decommissioned after a blast caused the robot’s battery to be melted to his body, making them unable to recharge him. He finds out a way to download someone’s consciousness onto a computer and transfer it into a robotic body, making it sentient like him.
There are many other plots at play in this movie such as Deon’s co-worker trying to sabotage him, corporate greed, and what happens after we die.
I have a love/hate relationship with this movie, mostly for how Chappie is portrayed. In the trailers, Chappie is depicted as an innocent being in a mean world, whereas in the movie, he is a naive gangster baby with good intentions. There were times, particularly at the beginning and end of the movie where you love the character and other times when you are just wishing that Hugh Jackman’s character comes and murders the thing.
One scene when you really feel for Chappie is when one of the thugs named Ninja decides to show him what the real world is like. Ninja (Daddy as Chappie likes to call him) drops him off in an area surrounded by gang members. Initially met with hesitation, the gang members quickly get over this and attack Chappie, throwing rocks and molotov cocktails at him. He begs and pleads but they do it anyways. It is actually a really emotional scene and one of the standouts in my opinion. To make matters worse, this takes place immediately after Deon and Yolandi (one of the thugs who Chappie calls Mommy) teaches him how to paint and it is really cute! After all this happens, he is hunted down by Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) and other Tetra Vaal guards to retrieve the master chip in Chappie’s head. They kidnap him, remove one of his arms with a saw, and steal the chip back but fortunately, Chappie manages to escape.
Moments like this makes the movie worthwhile. They set the movie apart from other movies like ‘Robocop’ and ‘I’ Robot’ which the movie feels a lot like. These moments give it that ‘District 9’ feel that made that movie so amazing. Unfortunately, these moments are few and ‘Chappie’ ends up feeling like every other robot movie out there.
The thing that I hated the most about this movie is how much they relied on Yo-landi Visser and Ninja from the South African “hip-hop” duo Die Antwoord. First off, they were good actors in the movie but they were essentially playing themselves so that doesn’t really count as actual acting talent. Secondly, Ninja is so annoying, it hurts my soul. He is that stereotypical Kevin Federline/Riff Raff, I think I’m a gangster type of thing and it was just the most cringe worthy thing I have seen in awhile and I sat through ‘Fifty Shades of Grey‘. Thirdly, Yo-Landi’s “character” was actually endearing and I loved how motherly she was to Chappie from the very beginning. Lastly, their music is featured throughout the movie and if you aren’t familiar with it, here is a taste. I apologize in advance.
For the most part, Neill Blomkamp really missed the mark with this one. I thought that it was going to be something new and fresh for the A.I. genre but it ended up just being lackluster. I expect better from him and this makes me wary about him taking on the new ‘Alien‘ movie. Better luck next time.
I give ‘Chappie’ 3 out of 5 film reels
‘Chappie’ was released in theaters March 6, 2015 and stars Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, and Miranda Frigon. The film is directed by Neill Blomkamp.