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Chappie – Review


Release Date: 6 March 2015 [USA]
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Writer: Neill Blomkamp - Terri Tatchell
Cast: Sharlto Copley - Dev Patel - Hugh Jackman - Jose Pablo Cantillo - Sigourney Weaver



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4 total ratings


Posted March 12, 2015 by

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Chappie Review:

This is truly an ordeal. Giving such a “low” grade to this movie seems unfair, but as cruel as it is, the movie is unbalanced as well. Let me explain.

Six years ago, Neill Blomkamp was an anonymous director and scenarist for short films such as ‘Alive In Joburg’, the very same short film that ‘Disctrict 9’ was based upon. With incredible luck – or boldness, Neill asks Peter Jackson to help him creating ‘District 9’, and came across the success we all know. Oddly enough, this success inspired Blomkamp a total disaster that was ‘Elysium’. What could we expect then, with the announcement of ‘Chappie’ ?

With the same taste for futuristic views, Blomkamp brings us in the same South Africa as in ‘Disctrict 9’, torn with social entanglements, a high crime rate along a Police Force not that strong, and where the company “Tetravaal”, under the direction of Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver, from ‘Paul’, ‘The Village’, ‘1492 : Conquest of Paradise’) designs humanoid robots, called “Scouts”, to help the Police fight against gangs and violence. The Scouts are autonomous to the extend of they are made to obey their commander, of course human. If the Scouts are the creation of Deon Wilson (Dev Patel, from ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, the ‘Skins’ series), an AI enthusiast, they are not seen from a good eye by Vincent (Hugh Jackman, from ‘Prisoners’, ‘Australia’, ‘Swordfish’) an other engineer working on another robot project, the Moose, that is only to be humanly commanded. Of course, the Moose is too expensive, too big, somehow unfit to evolve in urban conditions and not fit to answer to the Police issues. On the other hand, the Scouts are reliable, and so effective that the Police renew its purchase on a regular basis. In other words, the young Deon lives on a little cloud, when the veteran Vincent is forced to remain in its shadow.

When Deon manages to code a formula to grant AI to any kind of robot – which is not as trivial as it sounds when you read it !, he decides to overcome the order of Michelle not to try it : he steals a damaged robot send on its was to be crushed and reconditioned, but, on his way back to his house, he is jacked by three thugs, Ninja, Yo-Landi (the two main artists from the South-African band “Die Antwoord”) and Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo, from ‘Elisiym’ and the ‘Hyper Tension’ saga). The thugs wanted Deon to help them off-switching the Police Scouts, to be able to heist a bank in order to pay their debt to Hippo, a violent druglord that yet have escaped the Police so far. The bad news is, Deon himself, nor anybody, has the ability to switch the Scouts off. Out of options, and threaten for his life, he admits that he is working on a robot that can be educated, taught and able to make his own decisions. The fresh-born robot, named Chappie (voice given by Sharlto Copley, from ‘District 9’, ‘The A-Team’, ‘Maleficient’) by his new “mother”, will experience his life first as a baby discovering the world, then a child interacting with loving mother and rough father, then a teenager trying to survive on his own against the wide cruel world, until being a grownup being – all this in five days !

So as a big fan of anticipation movies like this, I won’t be able to objectively judge the writing or the directing of “Chappie”, but I am feeling quite disappointed by some choices Blomkamp made : if it is, for instance, a good idea to cast Die Antwoord, why should the movie be a constant reminder of the band ? Even the Red Bull product placement is more subtle, somehow : each plan with Yo-Landi or Ninja is a call back to one of their albums, of theirs songs, of their cultural universe, and the movie is riddled with their music, and only their music… It’s really a shame to have manufactured such a good film, with such a brilliant idea in the narrative course taken, to burden it that way. Don’t get me wrong : I really like Die Antwoord, but, weirdly enough, I didn’t want to watch a movie “about” Die Antwoord…

This being said, “Chappie” is as entertaining as was ‘District 9’ back in 2009, Neill Blomkamp shows once again his love for the unexpected and the spectacular, Sharlto Copley gives a real human dimension to a tinder box that will touch even the most hard-ass of you… But I can’t possibly say that this film is a masterpiece, as I was eager to in 2009 for ‘District 9’. Which leads me to another point of concern : if it may be a good idea to have asked Neill Blomkamp to direct “Alien 5”, I am quite certain that he won’t be as free as he was on his previous creations, and he will have to follow the orders of the many producers behind the project. So it may be not a good thing that such a creative potential is to be wasted like this, even though potential doesn’t make everything. Only time will tell…


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Theo Tessa
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