The Sometimes Sappy Chappie was Crappy
On the one hand, “Chappie” is a dysfunctional yet sappy family film, and on the other hand, it’s a crappy tech-riddled action movie that ultimately fails to find its identity.
If you are a fan of “District 9” or “Elysium” then you’ll likely be able to find some sort of cinematic salvation in Neill Blomkamp’s most recent feature-length release, “Chappie.” On the other hand, if the aforementioned movies do not particularly appeal to your palate, then it’s likely that you’ll find “Chappie” to be a bit more crappy than its predecessors.
The film starts off much like “District 9” with Blomkamp’s go-to collage of simulated newscasts designed to give the audience a look into a not so distant future setting. As we go from gratuitously grandiose ultra-violent moments in the ghetto to the cleaner more sterile setting of the corporation, I can’t help but think that this film is very similar to Blomkamp’s other films. It’s almost like he keeps making the same movie with slight thematic variations, but that is something to hash out in another post.
Visually speaking the film is mildly appealing, but counter to his more effective “District 9,” Blomkamp swaps out the CGI insect-like aliens for CGI robots that look and move a great deal like the insect-like aliens. His heavy handed approach to action leaves little to be desired after the first half of the film.
It’s a shame to see so many great talents wasted with this forced and poorly scripted dialogue. Blomkamp puts so much into adding visual nuance that the film’s core identity suffers.
Amidst ensemble of static characters, the Sharlto Copley voiced Chappie shows signs of character development. The problem becomes the believability of Chappie’s transcendence from a blank slate to a higher consciousness, as Copley jumps from a childlike tone to that of an oddball South African Neo-Gangsta. What is intended to come across as an endearing Robot forging towards greater consciousness instead comes across as a slap happy Chappie, ultimately failing to find a suitable middle ground between over-stated philosophy and crude humor. This is a true dis-service to Copley, who was awarded a much more polished role in both “District 9” and “Elysium.”
Hugh Jackman’s most memorable moments are of his ‘designer’ mullet and when he gets lost in his own eyes during a prolonged gaze into the mirror. His prize robot is a retired bad guy from the original “Robocop,” with about as much functionality as it has screen time (very little). On top of that, Jackman’s character goes from a slightly impatient ex-military flailing robot peddler to an urban terrorist for no reason.
Sigourney Weaver’s CEO character is seriously weak, her dialogue and role in the film were erroneous at best. The handful of scenes she was in doubled the number of horrendously generic lines she awkwardly interjected. On a brighter note, Dev Patel gives the most genuine performance as a genius drone engineer, who frustrated with corporate limitations, goes rogue and pushes ethical boundaries to create the first sentient robot.
The second best performance goes to the outlandish Die Antwoord who, although hardly deviating from their real-life personas, managed to believably blend into Blomkamp’s hyper-violent and idiotic neo-gangster vision of a future Johannesburg.
I was bored to tears about 30 minutes into the film. The action sequences were abrupt and the films overall composition was jarring, if not at times disorienting. I feel like Blomkamp has added a plethora of unique elements to the film, but did not allow the time for one, let alone all, of those cinematic seeds to blossom.
Some of the more interesting themes touched upon in the film, such as those dealing with consciousness and the age old argument of nature versus nurture, were overshadowed by Blomkamp’s gratuitous insertion of random acts of violence. I would have much rather seen a more natural progression of events over this cacophony of special effects and sudden camera movements.
It could be described as an adult version of short circuit with a hearty serving of violence, or maybe an amalgamation of Frankenstein and the Haley Joel Osmet led “A.I.” Either way, this is not a movie I would be quick to watch again. With that being said, if it happens to come on TV while I’m lounging on the couch one random night in the future I probably won’t switch the channel.
The sometimes sappy
If you are a fan of "District 9" or "Elysium" then you'll likely be able to find some sort of cinematic salvation in Neill Blomkamp's most recent feature-length release, "Chappie." On the other hand, if the aforementioned movies do not particularly appeal to your palate, then it's likely that you'll find "Chappie" to be a bit more crappy than its predecessors.