Chappie Review

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By: Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

With the advancements in technology, we are able to do things today which were pure science fiction a few decades ago. Able to communicate with people across the globe in real time, cars that now drive themselves and surgeries performed by robotics instead of physician hands. There is even recent projects using robot styled soldiers for war. What was once only seen in movies is now the reality. Director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) builds upon the use of robots as everyday protectors with his latest film, Chappie.

Johannesburg, South Africa, one of the more violent cities in the world. At the tech company, Tetravaal, young programmer Deon (Dev Patel) has created robots programmed as police officers. With these robots, violent crime has dropped significantly in the city. Deon is the star employee, receiving all the accolades, to the dismay of Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), an ex-soldier who created his own, much larger robot, called MOOSE, for violence control only to have it pushed to the side in favor of Deon’s. Deon has a brighter vision of the robot’s capabilities, working to give them 100% consciousness and intelligence… a soul of their own. He implements the program into a damaged robot named Chappie (Sharlto Copley), giving it a life of its own. But when Chappie is stolen, Vincent has an idea to become the hero of mankind. Will Deon be able to retrieve Chappie or will Vincent’s plans succeed in the end?

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Chappie feels like a mixture of Robocop and Short Circuit. You have this robot, once given it’s own intelligence, that starts off as a baby would, and continues to learn and grow. Yet, despite advanced knowledge and people trying to get him to do things in which he is against, Chappie still holds on to a child-like innocence. And it is this child-like innocence that some of the characters prey upon, using it to their advantage. He wouldn’t be killing people by stabbing them, he would be putting them to sleep. So now it’s ok. This naivety would have been completely workable if only the characters surrounding him weren’t so one dimensional. There was so much promise with the premise, but short-sighted motivation by characters downplays the brilliant core of the story, and that is a humanized robot. It feels as if Blomkamp isn’t sure what he wants Chappie to be, whether it’s an action film, an action comedy or a drama. Instead, he tries to make the film all three of the genres in one and, in attempting such an endeavor, all three suffer to rise to the top, dwelling in mediocrity throughout.

It is hard to criticize the actors considering the script isn’t conducive to their talents. The heart of the film is Chappie, and the other actors are used as bumpers to drive the robot in different directions. In this scenario, it isn’t necessary for the characters to be fully fleshed out or having varying motivations for their actions. They need but play a type of character so we may see the evolution and struggles of Chappie. Dev Patel comes the closest to providing a fully fleshed out character, as we ride with him through his high of being the poster child for a new era of safety, to the loss of Chappie (almost like having a child stolen from him), to trying to save everything once he discovers the overall threat. Sharlto Copley is also solid as Chappie with the motion capture coming off flawlessly. We ride the wave of life with his character, from that of a new born up to becoming a hero himself. As for the other actors, they were very cookie cutter characters, one dimensional and really not worth talking about.

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Chappie is a film you want to really like, because it has such a solid foundation and so much promise, but walk out of the theater knowing it could have been so much better than it was. The story is straight forward without much of anything resembling a surprise (minus one thing at the end which had me thinking, “That came out of nowhere”). The film has enough action to keep you entertained, a few comedic moments here and there, and a touching scene or two, mainly towards the end of the film. But there just isn’t enough intelligence I this film to make it one that will be memorable.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars


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