It would be fair to say that Chappie hasn’t been getting the best reviews. Movie websites have been throwing around the hilarious cries of ‘Crappie!’ and other shitty puns. So how bad can District 9 and Elysium director Neill Blomkamp’s newest offering be? Well the truth is that its actually a pretty good sci-fi romp that isn’t without its flaws. Chappie is a visually stunning, imaginative, robot action movie that tries to do too much yet achieves little.
Chappie takes place in the near future in Johannesburg, where the police force have started using robot cops called ‘scouts’ which have revolutionised crime prevention. These scouts are nearly indestructible, incorruptible, and best of all have RoboCop‘s voice. When one of the is stolen by a gang of criminals, is given artificial intelligence by his creator, and is christened Chappie. What follows is basically the plot of Short Circuit 2.
Let’s start with the problems with the movie. The main one is that it doesn’t really know what kind of film it wants to be. Is it about the militarisation of the police? Is it about the future of AI? Is it about corporate greed? Blomkamp tries to have his cake and eat it by throwing all of these ideas at the screen. Sadly none of them really stick as these plot points don’t have time to develop. When you start to get into an interesting element of the film it switches to something completely different.
Like I said at the beginning of the review – despite these flaws Chappie is a fun, fresh, enjoyable movie. As usual Blomkamp has created a beautiful looking film. The design of Chappie is superb, all grimy, metallic, and grounded in a realistic style. He’s also played brilliantly by Sharlto Copley who provides both the vocal and motion capture performance. Our hero is a wonderful creation, an innocent in a world full of awful people. In fact he’s the only truly likable character in the whole movie.
When it comes to the human cast, its a mixed bag. I expected to find South African rap duo Die Antwoord annoying yet as the film went on I completely warmed to the ridiculously named Ninja and Yolandi Visser. Hugh Jackman plays that asshole that’s at everyone’s school or work (if you don’t know who that is at your school or work its probably you) while Dev Patel is the non racist version of Fisher Stevens in Short Circuit.
Chappie works best when it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Scenes of his introduction and training in the ways of the criminal are very funny, and the action parts are visceral and exciting. However there isn’t enough of this. The movie is bogged down by a slow start, a schizophrenic tone, and one dimensional characters. These faults aren’t enough to completely derail Chappie as the combo of Blomkamp and Copley salvage an extremely fun, lovely to look at, piece of nonsense that you’re sure to enjoy if you don’t think too much about it. Much like the title character, Chappie is damaged goods which while very silly has a lot of heart.
Have you seen Chappie? Did you know the word ‘robot’ comes from the Czech word for ‘slave’? Who’s your favourite evil Australian? Let me know in the comments below.
Screenkicker Evil Australian Index (SEAI)