Director: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Anderson Cooper, Jose Pablo Cantillo
Rated: R (violence, language and brief nudity)
In the near future, crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.
By Cole Schneider
Neill Blomkamp’s third feature is another blunt sci-fi parable relating to a social issue. “Chappie” follows the upbringing of the titular robot with a human-like consciousness against the backdrop of crime-ridden Johannesburg. “District 9” was a rousing success and I really enjoyed the first have of “Elysium”, but it fell apart uncontrollably in its second half. “Chappie” is also half good, but it’s not as neatly divided. The film is hackneyed throughout with too many ideas to fit into one focused movie. Indeed “Choppy” might have been a more apt title. Still there were ideas just beyond the reach of the familiar bubbling underneath and occasionally the film presented its audience with a nice balance of smarts, fun, humor, and pace.
Don’t misunderstand. The bad is far worse than the good can offer as a counter-balance. Hugh Jackman’s character will finish the year among the worst and no character–not Chappie, nor his family or maker–truly inspired the sense of empathy required to make the film work. And while most of Chappie’s too many ideas were drilled with so much torque that the film was stripped out, there were some themes and motifs that worked apart from the careless narrative. Comments on media and spiritual relationships held just enough glue to stick.
Moreover, the movies design is spot on and it’s mostly generic score has moments where it flourishes. I just wish all of this was true with consistency and under the shell of a good film. Instead we’re left reeling as we watch characters we don’t care about explore tired political themes in outlandish ways. The South African hip-hop is really good!
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars
By Matt Greene
With only two films, Blomkamp already has a stark up-and-down career: while District 9 is a modern scifi masterpiece, Elysium is a forgettable (if marginally entertaining) mess. With Chappie, Blomkamp’s stunning eye for visual effects is in full force, and he even gets some emotions out of his protagonist. Unfortunately, more often than not, that sentiment often comes through as corniness. So despite it’s noble personality and impeccable visuals, Chappie’s unbalanced tone and shaky writing keep it from greatness.
Chappie is a sentient robot caught in a battle between his creator, a jealous weapons manufacturer, and a gang of bumbling criminals. Chappie’s arc between these factions is kind of sloppy, with his knowledge level changing depending on the needs of the story. However, he’s maybe the only character with any real humanity; everyone else is more a bad plot-device than a character. The “gangsters” are some of the dumbest and most annoying characters around, like a group of preteens trying to act tough. Weaver is horribly miscast and clearly out of her element. Even Jackman’s natural talent and charisma can’t make his one-dimensional, completely unreal and laughably predictable villain work. Other than Patel, who manages some pathos, the film clearly has a low opinion of humanity.
Not that Chappie is completely devoid of compelling beats; thoughts on intelligence and humanity and playing-God abound, and at times even succeed. Unfortunately, these thoughts are usually spoken at us instead of simply existing within the film for the audience to pull out. Cool visuals and sympathetic protagonists aside, Chappie isn’t as important or as good as it wants to be.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars