Star – Dev Patel
Genre – Sci-Fi (18)
Run Time – 2 hrs
Country – South Africa
Awards – 3 Nominations)
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So ‘Chappie’, the third film from ‘District 9’ director Neil Blomkamp and his screenplay writer wife, Terri Chappell. In-between they made the enjoyable Sci-Fi film Elysium with Matt Damon on similar crime ghetto themes, Blomkamp’s thing. Well, if you come from South Africa it’s no real surprise that is occupying your mind. Chappie was supposed to be the first film in a trilogy but the critics panned it for being rather silly at times and so no sign of the sequels, its $49m budget pulling back a decent $102m considered not to be enough of a success by the studios, I guess. It’s also the return of the very South African actor Sharlito Copley. If you haven’t seen District 9 then you really should.
Sharlto Copley … Chappie
Dev Patel … Deon Wilson
Ninja … Ninja
Yo-Landi Visser … Yo-Landi
Jose Pablo Cantillo … Yankie (Amerika)
Hugh Jackman … Vincent Moore
Sigourney Weaver … Michelle Bradley
Brandon Auret … Hippo
Johnny Selema …
Pitbull (as Johnny K. Selema)
Anderson Cooper … Anderson Cooper
Maurice Carpede … Police Chief
The notoriously high crime rate in the city of Johannesburg is raging hard and in response the South African government pours billions of Rand into a squadron of mechanized, state-of-the-art, armour-plated attack robots from weapons manufacturer Tetravaal.
The droids are developed by brilliant scientist Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) and supplement the embattled human police force in the city to be effective at last. They are successful in taking down the perp’s and when they bust a huge drug and weapons ring headed by gangster Hippo (Brandon Auret) the cops buy 100 more robots.
The facility also runs a competing project in the remotely controlled and much bigger robot called MOOSE, developed by soldier-turned-engineer Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman). He is not happy Deon is getting all the praise for Tetravaal’s success and grows envious when the police are unwilling to give his more cumbersome but powerful heavy weapons platform equal attention in the field.
At home, Deon has other things on his brilliant mind and has a eureka moment by creating a prototype sentient artificial intelligence that mimics a human mind to the point of feeling emotions and having opinions. But Tetravaal CEO Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) is raking it in from the police robots and not bothered about it right now and wants him to concentrate on the police kit and refuses to let him test the A.I. on a police robot. But Deon knows his discovery is huge and steals a recently damaged robot before it is destroyed and puts it in his van, along with the chip needed to update the robot’s software.
Gangsters, Ninja, Yolandi, and Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo) decide they need an edge to fight back against the robots destroying their crime empires and convince themselves that the robots have remote controls and can be turned off by the creator. The plan now is to kidnap Deon on the way to work and threaten him to do exactly that.
Achieving that, things go to plan, to a point, Dev telling them there is no key to turn the robots but he can reprogram the one in his van to learn their commands with his new program. In this way he won’t get killed and can complete his work. The deal is he will return everyday to train the robot named Chappie (Sharlito Copley) from its child like state to an adult whilst they want Chappie to be part of their gang and help boost cars and rob banks etc. But while Deon is away the gormless trio can’t help teaching it ‘gang slang’ and ‘blinging it up’ some with gold chains and bandanas. But this timid robot has feelings like its creator and gets to make choices.
It’s not as bad as the critics say (clearly comparing it unfairly to District 9) but it is rather silly towards the end as a good idea is wasted. The threatening urban South African ghettos that worked so well in Distract 9 are softened up some by the casting of Hollywood big names Weaver and Jackman and you can feel Hollywood squeezing the life out of Blomkamp’s violent but comical vision of his country to try and sell the film worldwide but that South African thing the appeal to this guys work.
The writing is not as good as it should be around the themes and more Short Circuit than Spielberg’s A.I. The gang actors seem to come from the South African rap music and so they add a remedial feel to it whilst Jackman and Weaver breeze through this for the paycheck, Jackman supporting an excellent Aussie mullet throughout. Presumably the mullet is cast as Australian men are known around the world for bad haircuts.
I enjoyed the first half much more than the second and the whole thing rather predictable after 30 minutes of set up. Dev Patel throws himself into it with is familiar wide-eyed enthusiastic energy as the likeable and rather cliché head wobbly modern Indian and easy money for Copley voicing the robot. But where this falls down is it gets progressively silly and you just drift away from it. Some of it is simply implausible and the cast wasted on it. District 9 was packed fill of political comment, sly humor and revelatory special effects and idea where this feels like a Disney version of Robocop.
Imdb.com –6.8/10.0 (197,325votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 32% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 41% critic’s approval
Blue – Ray version and a good one for it, as are most action films. Sadly you can’t get Blue – Ray rental in my local library anymore so take it while it’s there. Colors are rich and the sound much stronger.
-The Making of Chappie-
Lots of South Africans accents.
Chicago Sun Times –‘This is a well-meaning film with a good idea that unfortunately stumbles on its way to its less-than-satisfying end’.
Salon.com –‘It’s cluttered, goofy and incoherent from beginning to end, and much too long’.
Associated Press –‘Its oddly jumbled machinery never clicks. The logic of Chappie gradually disintegrates, becoming increasingly farcical’.
LA Weekly –‘There’s something fearlessly uncool about the film, which suffers mostly from being made 30 years too late’.
The Mail –‘… Blomkamp does not manage to give a minimum of plausibility to the landscape he sketches…’
The Sun –‘This tale of a police robot that is illegally used to test out intelligence-generating software is all action and no brains’.
The Star –‘As is, it’s just a boring, messy movie about annoying people and their annoying robot friend’.