Chappie is director Neill Blomkamp’s third feature film, all of which have been sci-fi films. After initially bursting on to the scene with the terrific District 9, Blomkamp hit a bit of a brick wall with his second effort Elysium, a film that Blomkamp himself knew he had got wrong. Chappie however, sees Blomkamp back on exciting form, even though the film is far from the standard of District 9.
Chappie has opened to a lot of negative reviews but all I will say is don’t believe everything you read as the film is nowhere near as bad as some reviews are making it out to be. It seems to be a classic case of the bandwagon that people love to jump on.
In the near future, the streets of Johannesburg are patrolled by a fully mechanised police force. The creator of the robots, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), is striving to create a new programme that will allow the robots to both think and feel as a human being would do.
The crime rate has fallen but that doesn’t stop Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) from trying to convince his boss, Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver), that artificial intelligence is not the only answer.
When Deon steals one of the droids to test his new programmes on, the droid falls into the hands of Ninja (Ninja), Yolandi (Yolandi) and Yankie (Jose Pablo Cantillo); a gang of criminals who want to use it to help them perform a heist. The trio raise the droid as Chappie (voiced by Sharlto Copley) and his artificial intelligence grows and grows, much more than Deon could ever have hoped for.
What I find so interesting about the genre of sci-fi is the possibilities and themes that can be explored. Quite often, sci-fi films are thought provoking and Chappie is no different. They don’t all have to feature an alien invasion you know.
Chappie focuses on artificial intelligence and the conflicting interests that the intelligence can be used for. Blomkamp explores these ideas very well in the first two thirds of the film however, I felt he lost his way a little in the third act.
The titular character, Chappie, is one of the strong points of the film. As a droid with human emotions and intelligence, the audience will empathise with him and connect with the themes of parenthood that run through the relationship Chappie shares with Yolandi and Ninja, who he just so happens to call ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’.
It speaks volumes about the human characters of the film when the audience will find themselves connecting more with the droid.
For the most part I enjoyed the performances however, I thought Sigourney Weaver was wasted in her role and Hugh Jackman’s villain was so badly written that it was hard to take him seriously at times. The scene where he pulls a gun on a colleague in front of the office and he passes it off as a prank just felt absolutely ridiculous.
While I didn’t love Chappie, it certainly doesn’t deserve the levels of hate it has been getting. It is not groundbreaking in any shape or form however, I do think Blomkamp’s film is definitely worth a watch. It has left me curious as to what exactly Blomkamp has planned for the new Alien film he will direct.