Published on March 6th, 2015 | by gareth0
In the world of 2016 South Africa, the police have taken a firm stand against the out of control crime problem facing the community by deploying a new line of robotic police officers. The robots known as “Scouts” are the creation of Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), who works for a defense contractor and dreams of taking artificial intelligence to the next level.
His boss Michelle (Sigourney Weaver), is not interested in anything other than the bottom line and discourages any creation or research that do not have military and financial ramification to them.
Deon must also content with an ex-soldier and rival designer named Vincent (Hugh Jackman), who is jealous of the success of the Scouts and wants to instead see his heavy weapons unit be given the chance to shine.
When he has a breakthrough, Deon opts to defy his boss and installs a new and revolutionary A.I. program into a Scout that was scheduled to be demolished after taking extensive damage in the field.
Things do not go as planned when Deon and his creation are captured by a gang who are desperate to raise money in order to pay back a debt to a rival gangster.
The new unit is like a child and Deon explains that he has to be treated like a child and given the chance to learn. The fact that his damage prevents him from being able to be recharged means the Scout now named “Chappie” only a few days of life adds urgency to the situation.
The gang starts to teach Chappie (Sharito Copley), when he needs to know to help them pull of their crimes but also become attached to him as he innocent ways and outlook start to grow on the gruff criminals.
With the clock ticking, events take a turn when Vincent takes matters into his own hands and before long several parties are pitted against one another with their very survival on the line.
Writer./Director Neil Blomkamp has crafted a “Thinking Man’s” science fiction film that evokes many solid debates about the definition of life, death, a soul, and other less tangible themes. The film has some action at the beginning and end and the CGI effects are very solid.
The biggest issue I had with the film was that the great premise lost momentum in the final act and in many ways takes some huge leaps of faith. We are supposed to believe that this is a top defense company yet people are able to come and go, especially at crunch time during the film. I had no idea you can just drive through a fence into a loading dock without every encountering any security or resistance. The area is like a revolving door as characters come and go without raising an eyebrow.
The cast is solid but some may have an issue with the accents in the film which Blomkamp recognizes by adding in subtitles at various moments in the film.
In the end “Chappie” is a good premise that never fully meets the potential it aspires to but still has enough good moments to underscore that Blomkamp is one of the most gifted talents in Science Fiction as he is able to infuse what would otherwise be a soulless character with enough heart and compassion that the audience will have empathy for him. With that in mind, Blomkamp should do a great job with the upcoming new Alien film as he has crafted a solid and enjoyable film that entertains while making you think about the deeper issues of existence without doing it in a heavy-handed manner.
4 stars out of 5
Second Review By Joseph Saulnier
Where to begin with this one. First, take what you think you know about CHAPPiE and throw it out the window. Done? Okay, here’s the premise of the movie. It’s the year 2016. The setting, Johannesburg. A robotic military police force is in effect. Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) is the brilliant mind behind the robots, known as Scouts. He has been working on artificial intelligence in his spare time, and when he makes a break through, he asks his boss if he can use one of the damaged Scouts to continue his research. When denied, he takes matters into his own hands and steals the damaged unit. En route to his destination, Deon gets ambushed by small time criminals Ninja, Yolandi and Yankie (Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser of Die Antwoord and Jose Pablo Cantillo respectively). They hope to get Deon to disable the Scouts so they can pull of a heist without interference, only they didn’t know what they got themselves into. Discovering the stolen unit, Deon is forced to upload his software at the “home base” of the rag-tag gangsters, and we see CHAPPiE (Sharlto Copley) come to life. He’s a baby in a sense, and it will be up to Deon, Ninja, Yo-Landi and Yankie to raise it. Of course, all this happens under the threat of a competing engineer at Deon’s company, Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), who is a bigger threat to the Scout project, and the safety of Johannesburg, than anyone realizes.
I don’t really understand where all the hate is coming from for this movie. As I sit here writing this, I have read around a few other reviews. There seems to be a lot under the opinion that Neil Blomkamp failed with this movie, but I couldn’t disagree more. I admit, during the first 15 minutes or so, I was a little skeptical of the movie. I knew going in who Ninja and Yo-Landi were, though I had never heard there music, but I was a little worried because it seemed that there was some major overacting coming from the pair. But eventually, you kind of realize that this is really who they are. They put a lot of their own personalities (or at least their stage personalities) into these characters. Either that, or they are better actors than I give them credit for. Mark my words, Die Antwoord made this film. They end up becoming charming and you definitely enjoy their characters for what they are. Remember enjoying a character and liking a character are two completely different things.
Patel and Jackman deliver as well. Having just discovered The Newsroom recently, I have been on the lookout for Patel, and he does well in the role, even though it plays off a few overplayed stereotypes. It was odd seeing Jackman as the antagonist of a film, especially as the look he has reminds me of his younger days in roles like Swordfish, but he pulls it off. And he gets to use his native Australian accent too.
There are many who think that this movie fell flat in its final act. Including my editor, Gareth. He states that he feels it lost its momentum, and yes there are some obvious flaws with the way some things are handled, but I think if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, you should be okay with it. Yes, security seems lax at the this defense company, which seems unrealistic, but I think you need to suspend disbelief sometimes when it comes to movies, if only just to enjoy the film. The true story here the bond that you see that begins to develop between CHAPPiE and three people: his Maker, his Mommy and his Daddy. I am not a parent myself, but my guest to see the film is, and she could relate very well to some of the themes of CHAPPiE’s growth as she is currently experiencing it with her own toddler. She stated that they captured it well, and made the audience feel the bond forming in an incredible way.
Gareth says he doesn’t feel that CHAPPiE never fully meets the potential it aspires to, and I actually agree on this point, though probably for a different reason. I think that we are looking at a franchise here, and there is still much more to be explored in this universe. The film starts us off with clips of professionals and experts in their field talking about they never thought they would see an advancement of this nature and importance in their life time, and that evolution is inevitable, which is why CHAPPiE took a left turn. We then flashback 18 months for the story of CHAPPiE, which takes place only over the course of like 5-7 days. What happens in the rest of the 17 months, 23 days? The events of this film were huge, but the public was blissfully unaware of the sentient CHAPPiE through 95% of the movie, with knowledge of him only becoming public knowledge to anyone outside of Deon and the crew until right up to the very end. I think Blomkamp has more in store for us in this universe. Let’s just hope the rumors of a falling out between Blomkamp and Die Antwoord aren’t true, or a little exaggerated. Needless to say, this one will definitely be one I see again in theaters, and will own the day it comes out on Blu-Ray.
4 stars out of 5.