Written by Christian James Haight
Writer and Director Neill Blomkamp’s new science fiction movie, “Chappie,” takes place during a not-so-distant future city in South Africa where the police deploy robots to uphold the law. One robot named Chappie, who is voiced and portrayed by Sharlto Copley, was given a special program that allows him to make decisions based on his own thoughts and feelings. Blomkamp, known for the low-budget film “District 9” that was nominated for four Oscars, tried to reawaken his strong reputation with “Chappie” after the upsetting release of “Elysium” in 2013. Instead, “Chappie” is a terribly put together movie with impractical characters and an altogether forgettable plot.
“Chappie” begins by following Engineer Deon Wilson, played by Dev Patel, who created the programming behind the robots. The crime rate in the city is at the lowest it’s ever been, but Deon has even bigger dreams. He secretly has been working on a project to create a new kind of artificial life that would actually have the ability to think and feel for itself. Without explaining the science behind this revolutionary discovery, Deon figures it out, only for his boss, played by Sigourney Weaver, to turn down any testing for the program.
Deon can’t just put aside what he created, as he put it, “This is a new kind of life form, a new step in evolution.” So in spite of his boss, Deon steals an injured robot who is later named Chappie that was planned to be recycled and used for scrap parts. However, before Deon is able to begin the programming, he and the robot are captured by a group of thugs, Ninja, Yolandi and Amerika who are played by Watkin Tudor Jones, Yolandi Visser and Jose Pablo Cantillo. The three thugs want to use the robot for their own criminal activity, to get an upper hand compared to the rest of the cities criminals.
They let Deon live after he promises to reprogram Chappie with the new program he created and leave his greatest creation with them so they could teach him of their ways and prep him to pull off a huge heist. Ninja becomes incredibly annoying as Deon begins working on Chappie, not even giving him five seconds before he begins pointing his gun at him telling him to hurry up. Once Deon finishes his work and Chappie wakes up for the first time, he acts like an innocent child and hides from the group in fear. In that moment the movie seems that it may have a chance because you’re suddenly interested in what will happen next, but as Deon leaves and the three thugs begin to teach Chappie their ways, the movie completely goes downhill.
Chappie begins to disregard Deon, even though all Deon has done is try to help him. Instead he begins to follow Ninja and Yolandi, who he begins to call “mommy” and “daddy.” Blomkamp tends to place deeper meanings in his films, in “Chappie” he displayed how the nurture of a child is important, in Chappie’s case he became a thug because that’s how he was raised with Ninja, Yolandi and Amerika. Although it’s a good display, the audience is left with a main character they’ll hate, and because of that the fate of Chappie is no longer cared for.
Hugh Jackman plays a militaristic co-worker of Deon’s named Vincent Moore and probably one of the worst characters he has ever portrayed. Vincent also created a robot that could be of use to the safety of the city and unlike Deon’s, Vincent’s robots are controlled by man. After getting rejected by the police because they felt it was “too angry,” Vincent begins to become obsessively jealous of the success of Deon’s robots. So obsessed that he tracks Chappie down and saws off his arm to “teach him a lesson.”
Three different characters in “Chappie” including Vincent, have horrendous looking mullets, and unfortunately that’s not even the worst part about them. Deon is the only character that the audience will be able to find a connection with because he’s the only one that isn’t a terrible and selfish person. Every other character in the movie is looking for ways to hurt others, which is not the kind of character an audience can route for. The worst of them all being Ninja, who acts as the leader of the group of thugs, wears a bright blue sweater with dolphins on it and is one of the dumbest lowlifes to ever hit the big screen.
“Chappie” has too many flaws to be considered close to the big leagues, but the action sequences throughout are well done. Although they include weapons that never run out of ammunition, it’s interesting to watch humans going up against big robots. The only thing that could have made the action better was if there was more of it because for a movie that’s supposed to be a sci-fi action thriller, there isn’t enough.
Along with the action, the ending was decent. Maybe not the best, but interesting enough to make a viewer question what it means to be human. “Chappie” has a storyline worth potential, but the execution by Blomkamp kept the movie from reaching it. By trying to squeeze such a large story arc into a two hour period, Blomkamp brought down the value of the film. The casting was terrible and although Hugh Jackmon and Sigourney Weaver have roles in the film, the actors aren’t used to their full potential. Instead they took Watkin Tudor Jones and Yolandi Visser, better known as Ninja and Yo-Landi from the rap group Die Antwoord, to play versions of themselves and getting more screen time than Jackman or Weaver.
At the end, “Chappie” is a movie that no one will remember because it gives the audience nothing worth remembering. Blomkamp is going to need to step up his game if he wants to be thought of as the same writer and director we was with “District 9.”
- Director: Neill Blomkamp
- Writers: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
- Actors: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman
- Genre: Action and Adventure
- Run Time: 2 hours 1 minute
Pros: Incredible CGI work done with Chappie and the other robots; captured the essence of how important the nurturing of a child in a stable environment can be; great action sequences.
Cons: Annoying characters that you’ll wish weren’t in the movie; a lot of corny dialogue; a terrible plot that ruined what was a good idea.