Chappie Film Review

Film Review by Jarred Tito

The Premise
In the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. But now, the people are fighting back. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. As powerful, destructive forces start to see Chappie as a danger to mankind and order, they will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo and ensure that Chappie is the last of his kind.

The Review
The movie starts off in true ‘District 9’ form, which incidentally is made by the same film makers. It’s dark and gritty, action packed and futuristic, and of course it’s set in Johannesburg, South Africa. Initially, it felt like the sequel to District 9 because of the set design and back drop. The movie also starts with a t.v. interview with guests reflecting on what Chappie was like before the changes which is basically how D9 starts. Well you can’t blame the film makers for wanting to use some of the same locations, old and abandoned factories, dark and derelict suburbs, and the very unmistakable Shanty Town, Jo Burge’s very own icon of racial inequality. Having said that, the strongest connections with any other film that I couldn’t get out of my mind, were the unmistakable similarities it had with another robotic law enforcement unit and 80’s movie legend, ‘Robocop.’ The super successful “part man, part machine and all cop” created by the junior engineer which undermines the ruthless senior who has his own bigger, clumsier militant robot cop with enough fire power to declare war on a small country or big city that ultimately wants revenge and will stop at nothing to get his own way….okay I’m beginning to rave. I think you get the picture. 

Bey, the big baddie robot does look awfully like the baddie robot in Robocop. I wonder what Orion Pictures thinks? Okay if I’m honest I could draw up similarities with multiple other robot movies made in the last twenty or so years. From movies such as Wal.E to Short Circuit and the great Robin William’s Bicentennial Man to Will Smith’s I Robot…and so the list could easily go on. So that tells me one of two things; there are only a very few ways of telling a robot story…or everyone who ever made a robot film after the ‘70s has ended up making some kind of new version of the “Bubble Headed Boo Boo,” Robby the Robot from Lost In Space.

Well in spite of some minor or major holes in the plot, which are very easy to ignore if you wear a blanket over your head and block your ears for a quarter of the movie, the overall emotional ride was okay and I was certainly entertained by the ongoing action bent story line. There are some very interesting and entertaining characters throughout like Ninja (Watkin Jones) who is a very unsuspecting hero of sorts and quite funny. Yolandi (Yolandi Vessor) who plays the role of Chappies mother, so to speak. She also adds a lot of interesting flavor to the story. I wasn’t sure if could accept her turn from a major tyrant who wants to kill the ‘Maker’ (Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame) to the Mother Teresa incarnate so soon. 

No SA action film can be complete without Shalto Copely (the voice of Chappie who also starred in District 9). His performance as Chappie is thoroughly entertaining throughout. Surely he is Neill Blomkamp’s (Director) answer to Peter Jackson’s Andy Serkis. Both actors are very versatile and hold that certain comic touch. I’m not entirely sure why Hugh Jackman needed to be in there nor Sigourney Weaver for that matter? But I guess the movie won’t hurt from the extra profile but in my opinion a couple of unknowns would have been better and would have benefitted from the break.

I’m not sure about what kind of budget this film had but at times I felt like I was watching a major Hollywood blockbuster and at other times it felt more like a ‘Kick-Starter’ community project. I guess that doesn’t really matter so long as the story works and in this case I think that ultimately this one does. It manages to complete the story and although I’m sure that there will be mixed reviews on about how this one ends, it does deliver some satisfaction.

The Verdict
If you’re not too concerned with plot and enjoy a good shoot him up sci-fi then this is a movie for you. Surprisingly there is enough emotional content in this picture to even keep the more touchy folk watching. What I’m saying is that there are worse movies to take a date to. I don’t know if I can accept this as an original idea by any standard and I have to say that the logic of the movie doesn’t hold water for most parts but….yes the big but…I left the theatre feeling entertained. I also liked the gritty style of the movie. 

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 12th March 2015
Rating: R13 – Contains violence and offensive language
Duration: 120 minutes 
Genre:  Sci-Fi
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman
Director: Neil Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium)

The Extras
Stars controversial South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord, who are both fans of Neill Blomkamp's work. Ninja has a District 9 (2009) tattoo on his inner lip.

Ninja purportedly behaved very poorly on the set, allegedly leading to a complete breakdown of his relationship with director Neill Blomkamp.

The scouts' rabbit ear antennae are inspired by the character Briareos from Masamune Shirow's manga Appleseed, of which Neill Blomkamp is a fan.

Cast members Sharlto Copley, Brandon Auret, and Jose Pablo Cantillo are all friends and frequent collaborators with Neill Blomkamp. They have previously appeared in movies he directed.

In Neill Blomkamp's previous film, Elysium (2013), a Hippo story is mentioned through the film. In Chappie (2015) there's a character named Hippo, whose actions have certain resemblance to the metaphor of Elysium's Hippo story.