DIRECTOR: Neill Blomkamp
Robocop meets Short Circuit, Chappie is Neill Blomkamp’s follow up to District 9 (2010) and Elysium (2012). Both of which have starred Sharlto Copley.
Here, he voices Chappie, a defunct police robot which has been programmed with a new A.I. system. But soon, falls into the hands of some punk-ass criminals, who teach the prototype learning robot, who has the mentalliy of a child, to commit crimes with them, mainly theft.
What ensues is the typical corporate backstabbing, death and destruction, you would expect from a movie centering around robots.
The problem with this film is that it does not seem to know what it is symbolising. It would seem to have a subtext about child abuse, or child soldiers in Africa, with the fact that it is set in South Africa MIGHT lend some credence to this assessment.
My leaning is more towards the subtext of African soliders or juvenile street gangs, but it is hard to be sure as the plot is so confused at times, it seems to lose itself in the melay.
Dev Patel is the lead programmer for the Police robots and designer of Chappie. He will go rogue during the course of the story but unfortunately, he seems to be essentially playing the same character he played in Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom.
But alongside Copley’s performance as Chappie, which is truly moving, it is Hugh Jackman who steals the show as Patel’s rival designer who is struggling to get his military droid sold as an urban pacification drone, essentially ED-209 to Chappie’s Robocop.
This is an odd mainstream film; set soley in Johannesburg and featuring a mix of A-list stars including Sigourney Weaver, along with some local South African rappers, which I have never heard of, the tone is both enjoyably retro and mixed along with a freshness that I kind of quite like.
But the plot just goes off the rails in the final act as it is left to Hans Zimmer’s score to be the most consistant consistent element of the entire film.
So in summation, this is a bit of a scrappy film, with major tonal and aesthetic shifts, which wears its influences on its sleeve, namely Robocop and Short Circuit, but with some great performances, a decent score and great production design.
This is well worth a watch.