Ah Chappie, a very well advertised film and one of my most anticipated films of 2015 actually, it sadly falls short of being a great film but is (sort of ) another step in the right direction for Neil Blomkamp, who is yet to top the great District 9.
Chappie, set in near future South Africa policed by autonomous robot police forces centres around one robot in particular called Chappie, taken out of action and re-programmed for initially nefarious, criminal needs by criminals Ninja, Yolandi and Yankie (America). They plan to use Chappie to carry out some typically criminal plans and kidnap scientist Deon Wilson played by Dev Patel to do the re-programming, what follows is the revelation that Chappie comes back to life but can think and feel, becoming the worlds’ first sentient robot.
And as things in sci-fi films go, sentient robots are a no-no and Chappie is hunted by the powers that be, namely the ruthless Vincent Moore played by Hugh Jackman, out to make sure no police bots are tampered with or used for the wrong means. First off, Chappie is a well cast film and the premise is actually great, the thought of how society and the world at large would react to a sentient robot but the film doesn’t quite address that concept right until the end of the film.
And even then it’s not fully addressed, save for interview clips through the film with people talking about Chappie, hinting the world is aware of him, Chappie suffers from something Elysium also suffered from, a great premise hindered by a lackluster story and poor execution. Chappie is about 60% action film when you really think about it, while watching I thought of how much better the film could be if it removed some of those action set pieces and South African pop duo Die Antwoord (Ninja and Yolandi) altogether. Although they did provided good comic relief and a light tone to the film, their inclusion in it still feels a tad misguided in retrospect.
That being said, the acting in the film is generally good, Dev Patel is good in his somewhat limited role, Ninja and Yolandi take centre stage as the criminals come Chappies’ adoptive parents and are surprisingly decent actors, while Sharlto Copley is fantastic as an expressive, confused, growing and learning Chappie. Chappie of course is the star of the film and you do really feel for him when things don’t go great, you want him to be safe and just learn like he seems to want to and it’s a testament to Neil Blomkamps’ directing, when you or at least I, felt more for the sentient Robot than most human characters in the film.
Chappies’ action ultimately detracted from any overall message the film was trying to send out, if there was one at all and the plot of having Chappie becoming sentient to just carry out crime felt like a wasted opportunity and oh I wish I had more good things to say about the film! Speaking of wasted opportunities, Sigourney Weaver in the film didn’t do much, a great actor of her calibre really should have had a bigger, more meaningful role, same thing goes for Hugh Jackmans’ Vincent, as good an antagonist he was, he was one dimensional.
Chappie is an overall unbalanced but entertaining story which could have been better if its’ execution was good as the overall premise, though it’s another decent step forward for Neil Blomkamp.
I don’t fault Blomkamps’ ambition and drive to deliver hard hitting sci-fi though and I hope he keeps soldiering on, he’s one of the better directors in the genre right now and I’m sure he’ll make some more excellent films in the future.
. Great overall premise and set up
. Story doesn’t unfold in the most meaningful way, wasted opportunity
. Good cast for the most part, great acting from Sharlto Copley as Chappie. Some characters are underdeveloped