Neill Blomkamp (Elysium, District 9) makes a particular type of film. Definitely sci-fi, filled with technology of some sort and they all have a certain look to them. The South African director has carved a place for himself in the film industry and is happy to stay there to continue the investigation of the genre of films he enjoys. District 9 came out of nowhere and many loved it. With its sense of hopelessness and the über popular theme of alien invasion the film going public made it a hit. He then followed it up with Elysium with the star power of Matt Damon and Jodie Foster on board. Though it had similar themes of technology, space and post apocalypse many considered it a misstep. Blomkamp is now back for another kick at the technology can with the film Chappie. While it is better than Elysium, it is only slightly better and most of that is due to the members of South African rap/dance group Die Antwoord and the endearing robot, Chappie (Sharlto Copley – Maleficent, The A-Team).
Deon (Dev Patel – Slumdog Millionaire, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and Vincent (Hugh Jackman – Les Miserables, X-Men) both work for the tech/defense firm Tetra Vaal, but each is having a very different experience. Deon is celebrated because his program that developed the mechanized police robots that are now in service in Johannesburg, South Africa are making the company plenty of money. Vincent has been working on a huge, monstrous defensebot called Moose. The boss, Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver – Avatar, Aliens), has repeatedly refused to allow Vincent to further develop and pitch Moose to the police force feeling it is overkill, so he is less than happy with his working conditions.
Vincent finds a way to show the need for Moose after Deon develops a program that allows a robot to think and feel on its own – meaning it becomes a sentient being. Just as Deon gets it up and running on a “borrowed” robot destined to be destroyed due to damage, it is stolen from him by a trio of criminals. Yo-Landi (Yo-Landi Visser – first film) and Ninja (Ninja – first film) name the robot Chappie and plan to train it to help them carry off heists. When Vincent finds out what is going on he sees his opportunity and infiltrates all police robots programs making them go offline believing then his Moose will be rendered necessary to keep the peace. It is going to be the ultimate test for Chappie to see if he has any sense of humanity and what is right and what is wrong.
Plenty of style has been injected into Chappie. It looks great. Chappie is cute and Ninja and Yo-Landi are outrageous – in the way they dress, act and even speak. Plenty of thought obviously went into the robots’ look and the way the gangsters dress. All of this plus the cool technology allows you to wonder if this is what we are going to have to deal with in the future. Robots as policemen and robots that can think and feel. Will it be possible to write a program that allows inanimate objects to not only become animate, but have their own consciousness? Is this what mankind’s near future is going to be like? Allows our imagination to kick in.
Some have criticized the one-dimensional characters in the film and the subpar acting of Sigourney Weaver and Hugh Jackman and while that is mostly true there is enough for you to sink your teeth in so that you can enjoy your time watching Chappie. First of all, it is very different in style and tone than anything else out there available for mass consumption. It has the surprising (in this style of film) elements of humour and sentimentality going for it. Chappie’s character (like a little child in this superhuman, full grown metal body) is really quite loveable with his enthusiasm for learning new things, child-like wonder and cute eyes and bunny-like ears. Plus there is some social commentary buried within that causes you to think about the world we live in and how we are shaping it to be in the future.
-Extended Scene: Very Bad Man
-Featurettes – From Tetra Vaal to Chappie, Jozi: Real City and Sci-Fi Setting, Chappie: The Streetwise Professor, We Are Tetra Vaal, Keep It Gangster, Rogue Robot: Deconstructing the Stunts and Special Effects, Arms Race: The Weapons and Robots, Bringing Chappie to Life: The Visual Effects, The Reality of Robotics
-The Art of Chappie Gallery
-Previews of Powers, Fury, Aloha, Air, Predestination