Free Press Journal

Movie Review: Chappie – Predictable sci-fi actioner


Cast: Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo & Anderson Cooper as himself

Director:  Neill Blomkamp 

As storylines go, Neill (District 9, Elysium) Blomkamp’s sci-fi actioner Chappie echoes Stanely Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop, Steven Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence, Alex Proyas’ ‘I, Robot’ and Chris Columbus’s ‘The Bicentennial Man’, both adapted from Isaac Asimov short stories.

Chappie is set in Blomkamp’s hometown of Johannesburg in South Africa, where mechanised droids combat criminals and a stolen bot, Scout No. 22, is reprogrammed by his creator Deon (Dev Patel) Wilson which enables it to acquire the ability to feel and think. Deon’s envious “Christian” rival at Tetravaal Robotics, Vincent (Hugh Jackman, sporting a preposterous haircut), however, wants the company to produce his own invention Moose, a gigantic robocop that can be controlled by a human (a la Real Steel and Michael Bay’s Transformers).

Virtually hounded out of his office by the nasty Moore who continually makes the sign of the cross and an unsympathetic boss lady Michelle (Sigourney Weaver) Bradley, Deon falls from the frying pan into the fire when gotta-raise-cash quick drugs dealing duo (rapper Ninja, Jose Pablo Cantillo) steal the robot and teach it criminal behaviour.

But Chappie (voiced by Sharlto Copley) stirs the maternal instinct in Ninja’s (real and reel life) partner Yo-Landi Visser who shepherds it with love and compassion through its slow but steady evolution into a self-aware, sentient creature which loved to read and being read to before it went bad. But Deon’s boss Bradley egged on by Moore) begin to see Chappie as a danger to mankind and try to destroy Chappie and his kind.

Like Spielberg, Proyas and Columbus, Blomkamp also (briefly) touches on the concepts of nature/ nurture, human consciousness, the immortal soul, and even reincarnation (though human consciousness is relocated into the hard drive of a robot). The best (meaning, moving) scenes are the ones where Yo-Landi reads bedtime stories to Chappie and talks about life after death (“sleep”). And when Chappie’s battery begins to lose power and he realizes he’s going to sleep (that is, to die). The film ends on a predictable note, hobbled by an inconsistent screenplay and unexciting pyrotechnics.