Chappie – Movie Review
Chappie – R
Release Date: Fri 06 Mar 2015
Chappie is set in 2016 South Africa, where a robotic police force keeps the peace on the mean streets. The robot’s designer Deon (Dev Patel) creates an experimental upgrade that gives one of the robots a working, learning artificial intelligence and sentience. This robot is Chappie (Sharlto Copley).
Director Neill Blomkamp returns to South Africa where his better District 9 takes place. Where District 9 was a unique look at a subjugated alien species, Chappie is a disappointingly by-the-numbers AI story that cribs from Robocop and Short Circuit without bringing much new to play. It’s not until the last half hour or so that things really pick up and go in a more interesting direction, but the two hour running time makes it a slog to get there.
That’s not to say there’s nothing good about Chappie. The visuals are appealing and the action scenes are exciting and feel like a summer blockbuster. Every once in a while a bit of humor and heart poke through the otherwise samey story line.
None of the characters are developed well enough to make me care about any of them – Chappie included. Dev Patel’s earnest Deon disappears for long stretches so we can linger on Ninja and Yolandi spending time teaching Chappie how to be tough (Ninja) and feel nurtured (Yolandi.) While neither are fantastic actors, they do okay apart from the illusion-breaking issue that they are using their stage names as character names, they are wearing Die Antwoord gear and many of their songs play as they drive along in their cars. It’s beyond fourth wall winking, it’s essentially a flat out advertisement for their band and brand.
Hugh Jackman essentially plays the role of “the military” shrunk down to a single man and his prototype. Sigourney Weaver is likewise “the government” in her role as the leader of the company that manufactures the robots. In a larger movie, their lines would be delivered by a host of people sitting at monitors or around the table of a war room. In Chappie, three people effectively control the fate of the entire country’s police force and can maneuver around each other and the rest of the company at ease.
I wanted to like Chappie and I think there are some good ideas in it, but the majority of it is rote and forgettable. It’s too violent to recommend as mindless action entertainment and falls into a weird place where I can’t think of who to recommend it to.
Aaron, Cal and I saw it in the theater and had a discussion in the car: