His Movie Review of Chappie:
I was very excited for Chappie to come out. It is the third major film by director Neil Blomkamp, who is notable for the amazing film District 9 and the lukewarm film Elysium. I had high hopes that he would return to greatness with Chappie. There are two sci-fi premises that I am a sucker for–time travel films and movies about A.I. taking over the human race. Chappie obviously fits the second, and since I loved District 9 so much, and the trailers for Chappie looked so good, my hopeful meter was going off the charts.
Chappie stars Ninja and Yolandi, a South African music duo who play Chappie’s “mommy” and “Daddy”.
Chappie centers on the well-treaded story premise of humans creating A.I. and the benefits and consequences of it. Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), a robotics engineer has helped create the first A.I. robotics police force in Johannesburg, South Africa. Not wanting to stop his work there, he continues a personal mission to making artificial intelligence. He does so, and no one seems too keen on giving robots self-awareness. Deon makes the decision to steal a robot and run some tests.
Unfortunately for Deon, he happens to cross paths with Ninja and Yolandi, who are looking for a way to shut down the robotic police force for a big heist. This winds up putting Chappie in the hands of these criminals, and as Deon explains, Chappie is learning as if he is a baby.
All the while this is happening, we have Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) stewing because his overkill police robot is put on ice because the Scout droids Deon created are doing so well. As expected, Vincent eventually comes to a head with Deon and his scouts.
The obvious comparison for the movie Chappie is that of Robocop. Neil Blomkamp had to have at least had some inspiration from that film. There is a lot more to Chappie than what Robocop was though, and I think both films have different questions they ask the audience. But those questions are probably the best part of this movie. The first part of that question is asking if humans are ready for, and can control A.I.–and is it meant to be controlled once it is created? I think the second sub-question that Chappie asks is, are robots — and by extension, humans — products of their upbringing? Chappie is “born” in the slums of Johannesburg, amongst criminals, but he has the one ray of “guidance” in Deon who he doesn’t have as much time of influence as Ninja and Yolandi have due to circumstances. But it is this interaction in the film between Chappie and the external forces around him that I was enamored with the film.
Chappie is also a very likable robot. Sharlto Copley did an amazing job creating this character, as did all of the special effects people. He is a lot of fun to watch as he develops his sense of self, I can’t say enough about how Chappie was brought to life.
Despite my high praise for the movie so far, I have to say that there are some glaring problems with Chappie that significantly hurt my enjoyment. The first one is the setting. Neil Blomkamp’s scenery has been the same for the past three films–dirty slums, two of which take place in Johannesburg. I can understand his affinity to his hometown, but I would like to see something different in that regard. For me this wasn’t a huge problem, but I can imagine for many people, it would be a huge turn off, as Neil Blomkamp’s movies are all starting to feel the same.
A second problem with the movie is Ninja and Yolandi. While I was fine with their acting, it is really hard for me to get behind films that try to un-demonize criminals. These guys open the film as hardened criminals, yet by the end we are supposed to sympathize with them. I sort of understand that Chappie is the reason for their softening, but I still have a hard time with their character development. It isn’t quite believable for me. But again, this is something I can forgive as well.
The straw that broke the camel’s back is Hugh Jackman’s character Vincent Moore. Don’t misunderstand me, Hugh Jackman gave a great performance as always in the film, but the way his character was written was awful–at least the last third of the movie. The first parts of the movie I can get behind. He is a disgruntled engineer, bummed out he is not getting his shot because some young kid has cornered the market with his scout droids. I also buy his distaste for A.I., wanting a more controllable police force. However, the lengths that Vincent Moore goes to change things to his favor is just bizarre and unrealistic. Chappie is a great film until it goes off the rails at the end. It was jarring how nuts the film went. I can understand wanting to have some exciting change in a movie to shake the audience up, but what happens in Chappie is just wrong.
The ending, unfortunately, steers itself right into that of Robocop, with Chappie facing off against the big behemoth that Vincent Moore created. While meant to be a fun, epic fight to finish the movie, I thought the film would have been a lot better if it stuck to its beginnings, continuing the question of A.I. and nature vs. nurture that really drew me into the film. In fact, Chappie could have had little to no action , and I think it would have finished up much better than it did.
There is a lot more good stuff to talk about in the film, but I don’t want to give everything away. I would rate the movie about a 7 out of 10. If the ending was reworked to be more in line with the rest of the movie, it would have earned a 9 out of 10. The first half of the movie is amazing. It is really disappointing that Neil Blomkamp could not finish Chappie as good as it started.
Her Movie Review of Chappie:
Chappie is a sci-fi/action film directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium), and written by the same writing team behind District 9, Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell. It is based on Blomkamp’s 2004 short film titled Tetra Vaal. Chappie stars Sharlto Copley (District 9, Elysium) as the voice of Chappie, Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), Hugh Jackman, and Sigourney Weaver.
The film takes place in 2016, as Johannesburg, South Africa releases a police force made up of robots. Indeed, the first scene in the film is an action scene that shows us just how effective these robots can be. Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) is an engineer at Tetravaal, a weapons company run by Sigourney Weaver’s character, Michelle Bradley, and is behind the creation of the robot police force. In his free time, Deon has been working on developing an artificial intelligence program, and finally makes a breakthrough. When one of the police robots is destined for the junkyard, Deon secretly takes it, against Michelle’s wishes, intending to install and test the AI program on it.
Unfortunately, Deon gets kidnapped by some thugs, played by Ninja and Yolandi Visser from South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord (whose songs show up throughout the film), and Jose Pablo Cantillo (Elysium, The Walking Dead), who want Deon to help them control the police robots so that they can more easily steal some money to pay off a drug lord. Instead, Deon tells them that they can train Chappie to do what they want him to do, although Deon says he’ll need to come back to help Chappie develop. After they let Deon go, Yolandi takes a motherly approach toward Chappie, while Ninja and America (Cantillo) take on more of a tough love approach.
Deon goes back to work as if nothing happened, but Hugh Jackman’s character, Vincent Moore, who is also an engineer at Tetravaal, begins to get suspicious. While Chappie is being trained, Vincent takes advantage of the situation to push his agenda of getting his own robotics project approved. However, things don’t go quite as Vincent planned.
There’s actually a lot more going on in the story than the sparse summary that I have provided above. Much of the enjoyment from this film comes from seeing Chappie develop from essentially a baby, to a child, to a more intelligent creature, capable of thinking and creating things on his own. Of course, many of the things that he does are influenced by what his human owners have taught him, both good and bad. Sharlto Copley does a great job voicing Chappie and bringing a personality to the robot. There were so many times that I felt sentimentally toward Chappie, because he felt like a real person, not a robot. There was also quite a bit of humor involved in Chappie’s training, which was fun to watch.
One thing that really distracted me at the beginning were the Ninja and Yolandi characters. The way they looked and dressed seemed so far-fetched that I felt like they were caricatures of people, and found them hard to believe as real people, even if they were members of a drug ring. Yolandi reminded me of Tank Girl, and Ninja’s mullet was just unnecessary. Yes, Hugh Jackman has a bit of a mullet in this movie too, but it’s nothing compared to Ninja’s. After awhile, I chalked it up to cultural differences and ignored it, though.
Chappie does have a very similar feel to Blomkamp’s previous films, District 9 and Elysium, which might turn some people off, but I was fine with. Much like those films, Chappie also included some social commentary about the way the world works.
As far as acting goes, I felt like everyone did a good job, and didn’t really have any problems with any of the actors. Well, except for maybe this one drug lord guy who had a really thick accent. So thick, in fact, that the film used subtitles for him, even though he was speaking English!
The effects were great. There were quite a few action scenes in the film, and everything looked authentic and believable.
I was really enjoying the movie a lot – that is, up to one specific point. A certain character takes things to the extreme to get what they want, and it’s completely unnecessary. It seemed really random and far-fetched for this person to do what they did, and the movie kind of lost me from that point on, as I watched in disbelief, unable to buy what was happening. Things could have happened much differently to make this movie so much better.
In any case, if you liked District 9 (which I did), then you’ll probably like Chappie. It has some interesting concepts, and is enjoyable to watch, for the most part.
I also must applaud the movie for putting women into positions of power. Sigourney Weaver’s character is the head of a weapons company, which might be thought of as a male role, and Yolandi, though motherly, actually turns out to be quite tough.
My rating: 7/10