God dammit, another film I wanted to be amazing and It has let me down. I’ve really got to stop hyping up movies to myself. First things first, this is not a terrible movie… It just wastes a lot of potential from a director I thought was only going to go from strength to strength (Neil Blomkamp). Chappie fits happily in the middle of previous works District 9 and Elysium with not going over the top in special effects but stepping up from a documentary style of filming, unfortunately it’s then let down in other areas.
The plot goes that in a near sci-fi future a robot police force are used to fight crime, the public start fighting back and a unit is saved from the scrap heap and re-programmed with the first ever AI but is then stolen to be used for a heist, it is then up to his maker to try and get him back.
I think my biggest problem was with what the film was actually about… and I’m still not sure what it was trying to get across entirely. Blomkamp likes a bit of satire and throwing modern political problems into his sci-fi worlds (over-population/apartheid we’ve seen so far) and I’m not suggesting there always has to be one but Chappie doesn’t have anything of the sort. We see there is creator of the AI and the original police robots Dev Patel and his foil Hugh Jackman going head to head in a AI vs human controlled police-bots conflict. Then we follow 3 gang members (played by the members of Die Antwoord) and their planning of a heist with Chappie to pay back a local gang leader and lastly there is then Chappie attempting to learn but under the guise of abusive psudo-parents/captors (Die Antwoord) who then basically just starts causing havoc. These 3 story lines never really fit together and given the look and potential it is a shame. For me it would have been nice to have seen Patel vs Jackman really explore the AI argument, benefits to humanity vs potential SKYNET level disaster, and to see Chappie be put actively in situations where he has to learn and make moral decisions based on consequences of what he’s doing instead of being the product of scumbag parents and inevitably just act like an asshole. There could be so much more done to come up with either amusing or more emotionally charged set pieces when seeing Chappie evolve as I felt no empathy towards him for any of his actions throughout the film. What Neil Blomkamp has done is confuse the feeling sorrow for him rather than empathy from the abuse subjected at the hands of his captors. Chappie just doesn’t evolve in a way that makes you really connect with what he’s trying to do.
One thing that can’t be faulted is the animation and acting of Sharlto Copley as Chappie. He completely sells you on a new born robot finding his feet unsure and scared of everything around him. It is entertaining to see him bring Chappie to life on the screen. The action is constructed well and looks good but ultimately this is more of a consolation of the film.
Sigourney Weaver is horrendously underused and that being said the rest of the cast are a bit bland and don’t have a lot of depth when it comes to their motivations. You don’t really care one way or another what is happening to them. This feeling is taken further when it is clear that Hugh Jackman’s character is clearly meant to be the villain of the piece, but in the third act when the action starts you feel perfectly fine with the fact that certain characters, who Blomkamp tries to get you to sympathise with, are getting blown away, you aren’t really bothered that it’s the villain taking these people out.
Potential for big ideas and looks lovely and glossy but ultimately lacks substance without knowing itself what it is really about. I enjoyed Jupiter Ascending more.