Chappie

Chappie is the latest science fiction movie from director and writer Neill Blomkamp (District 9 and Elysium) and is again based in South Africa and once again ‘stars’ Sharlto Copley.

I say ‘stars’ because in true Andy Serkis style Copley isn’t seen on screen as the titular character Chappie is a robot. But like Serkis has done time and again with his performance captures, Copley shines through and does a great deal to make this rather generic film better than it might have otherwise been in his absence.

I was a huge fan of the much maligned District 9 which to date still has my most disliked review on Amazon. I liked Elysium too but not quite so much and so I had some reservations over Chappie although the Appleseed ears caught my geeky attention, didn’t see it at the cinema and instead saw it on Amazon Instant Video with a couple of quid off via some credits for lazy postal services.

So what did I get for my £2.50?

Well first of all I got Dev Patel playing a middle-class wunderkind robot developer, Hugh Jackman playing a mullet-haired mentalist colleague bent on bigging up his own creation (a big-ass military robot straight out of Robocop) and Sigourney Weaver typecast as a cut-throat CEO (much like Jodie Foster’s character in Elysium). So it’s pretty safe and uneventful Hollywood casting up to a point.

Then we get the South African contingent – Copley as the ‘number five is alive!’ police robot who Dev’s character injects with some AI code (mirrored very recently in Channel 4’s Humans but more along the lines of Short Circuit) and the two members of rap group Die Antwoord – Ninja and ¥o-Landi Vi$$er. For me it is the South Africans that shine and make this movie work and give it an angle not seen in other more mainstream renditions of the AI story. ¥o-Landi Vi$$er is eccentrically excellent and Ninja is… well he’s just proper gansta!

Sure, the storyline is unoriginal and pretty ridiculous, but it also has some truly powerful moments in terms of visceral action, special effects and blatant eye-candy and also some good thought-provoking dialogue. As well as some gritty South African realism courtesy of Blomkamp we get a dollop of humour too.

This is a superior film to the lamentable, watch-while-Hollywood-execs-and-Will-‘hell no’-Smith-piss-all-over-Asimov’s-classic, I Robot and more along the lines of the rather confused Speilberg/Kubrick film AI in its Pinocchio underpinnings. It is easy to make a connection to Robocop especially when we get to the inevitable ‘you have fifteen seconds to comply’ big-ass robot boss battle.

It’s a shame that Jackman’s robot couldn’t hit a barn door and is taken down like a sucker – quite a fanciful event given the difference in fire power it has in comparison to Chappie and his plucky gangsta chums. Then we have some consciousness-transfer shenanigans which I have to say I have in my book Muta and always reminds me of the comedy film The Man With Two Brains.

In terms of screenwriting 101 the film follows a pretty standard pattern, but it was nice to see Chappie not making the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ at the end of the film and yet still get his ‘hero’s reward’ and for Blomkamp to throw in not one, not two, but three ‘resurrection’ scenes at the end.

Blomkamp has his critics (even more than M. Night Shyamalan?) but I love his stuff. People can disagree with me and call this film ‘a pile of crap’; everyone is entitled to their opinion even if they are stupidly blatantly ignorantly wrong…

 

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