Director: Neil Blomkamp
Starring: Sharlto Copley (v), Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, Die Antwoord
Release Date (US): 6th March, 2015
Company: Columbia Pictures
“I am consciousness. I am alive. I am Chappie.” – Chappie
In his latest movie, director Neil Blomkamp (District 9) returns to his South African roots, reuniting with both Sharlto Copley (Elysium) and the sci-fi/dystopia genre. Chappie is set in the near future, where crime is patrolled by a mechanised police force of robot ‘scouts’. But when two down-on-their-luck criminals attempt to kidnap the scouts’ creator (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire), the trio end up creating something far more significant: a uniquely gifted robot named ‘Chappie’, with the ability to think and feel for itself…
Chappie is a bit of an enigma. Derided by crtitics as ‘clichéd’ or ‘unintelligent’, you could argue that the movie’s youthful exuberance and playfulness is quite fitting. It is, in fact, perfectly representative of the child-like perspective of its protagonist. There’s no doubting the story itself is convoluted, and its moral stance on violence and inequality is questionable – but the movie’s emotional core shines through all of the madness. At it’s heart, it’s really just a film about a little boy – and that’s what makes it so endearing.
There is undoubtedly an element of cliché about the plot – but not in the manner many would have you to believe. As a sci-fi movie, Chappie works well, paying homage to other, greater works of the past, while offering a fresh and emotionally engaging central story. The actual events within the plot are admittedly a little formulaic, and many will find the outcome somewhat predictable. What makes it so engaging, though, are the characters themselves – buoyed by a few fantastic performances, and some solid writing too.
“I’ve got blings?… I’ve got blings!” – Chappie
Chappie is undoubtedly at its strongest when it’s eponymous protagonist is present onscreen. Sharlto Copley’s performance through motion capture almost rivals that of the Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes cast, with the actor showing real talent, adaptability and emotional fragility when portraying the lovable hero. Similarly versatile is Hugh Jackman (The Wolverine). Famed for being one of the ‘nicest blokes around’, Jackman abandons his charming real-life persona and morphs into a truly engrossing, nasty piece of work.
Before Chappie awakens, South African musical duo Ninja and Yolandi Visser are left to carry out much of the heavy lifting, as two of the criminals who kidnap Dev Patel’s tech genius. While their acting is perhaps a little lacking at first, their performances gradually improve over time, and ultimately, when united with Copley, help sculpt the conflicted heart of this movie. Patel, meanwhile, delivers an assured turn as Chappie’s ‘maker’, but Alien‘s Sigourney Weaver is shamefully sidelined with an ineffectual bit-part role.
Direction & Tone
The inspiration behind Chappie is perhaps what makes it so interesting. On the surface, it’s an ordinary sci-fi/action flick (with a few good-to-great action sequences), and yet, despite its robotic protoganist, it’s also one of the most ‘human’ movies of the year. Through the character of Chappie, Blomkamp appears to channel his own childhood memories, giving it that personal touch. The end product is by no means as masterful and pioneering as the sci-fi classics that inspired it, but it still offers a few hints of greatness.
- The South African accent is my jam – I love it! As a kid who once knew most of the words to Enter The Ninja, imagine my elation when I found out Die Antwoord were in this! I’m happy to say, the song does indeed make an appearance. Life = complete.
- Much has been said about Hugh Jackman’s glorious mullet. As horrific as it may be, I felt it only made him an even more terrifying villain. Those short-shorts though? Not so much… 😛
- I’m sad I could only fit in two quotes from Chappie. That little robot’s dialogue is a gold mine!
- Not gonna lie, upon re-reading this, I suddenly felt like I was talking about Boyhood… Was it just me? Well, fine then.
- But c’mon think about it! Neil planned Chappie as part of a trilogy, and apparently Linklater’s been circling the idea of a Boyhood sequel. Crossover time, anyone? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Zefhood
Despite what the critics may say, Neil Blomkamp bounces back from his Elysium mis-fire with this exciting and surprisingly touching sci-fi/action piece. While heavy-handed in the execution, it finds its success from the strength of Sharlto Copley’s leading performance.
Quite Good “Zef As Fuk”