By: Mike Agostinelli
I remember when I first sat down to watch Neill Blomkamp’s debut film District 9. The first thought that entered my mind was: South Africa is ugly as hell. Everything looked run down and wet, and everyone was terrible looking and talking in a ridiculous, annoying accent. But the movie itself was original and damn good. Then came his second film, Elysium. This was a mess. Matt Damon looked lost, and the story was all over the place. Also: South Africa still looked like crap. Now we have Chappie, and while Africa still resembles a piece of poop, at least now we are left with a thought-provoking and engaging film. Albeit a flawed one.
Chappie begins by establishing its setting: South Africa (ugh) has recently upgraded more than half of their police force to robot drones, slowly but surely replacing human cops. These drones were created by a brilliant inventor played by Dev Patel. A rival inventor with a military background played by Hugh Jackman has a different idea, revolving around his own human controlled robot that looks suspiciously like the ED-209 from Robocop. Into all this comes Chappie, a police drone bound for the scrap pile who ends up getting implanted with a complex AI program by Patel’s character that earns him self-awareness. A highly annoying street gang and Patel then begin teaching the robot their respective ways of life, leading to much drama when Hugh Jackman realizes what they’re up to.
There’s lots about this movie to enjoy. The special effects are top notch, and watching Hugh Jackman play a villain is an interesting switch which you can clearly tell he’s getting a kick out of. Sharlto Copely also adds surprising depth and likeability to Chappie. Seeing the trailers, I thought his voice wasn’t matching the robots look, but upon seeing the movie it’s a perfect fit. There’s a long section in the middle of the film where Chappie is “raised” predominantly by a street gang, and during this stretch Copely really shows his acting chops. Unfortunately, during this same stretch we have to deal with the street gang itself, which is led by one awful actor.
Apparently the gang leader is an untrained actor that goes by the name Ninja. Yup, that’s how he’s credited here. It’s also his name in the movie, so take that how you will. His girlfriend is a slightly better actress, but she’s also so awful to look at its almost painfully hard to do at certain points. Once they get their hands on Chappie and begin teaching him some bad habits, the girls motherly instincts begin taking over while Ninja himself proceeds to be an incredibly annoying asshole. You can argue that’s the point, inciting that type of reaction from me, but this guy is about as talented an actor as my left ball.
Hans Zimmer is also the composer here. People blow loads over his work, but I simply do not see the appeal. What he does here is what he does all the time: moody background buzzing and ominous tones, with random loud horns blaring and no discernible themes whatsoever. The only difference here is he adds in some 80’s synth type sounds, which make it sound worse and even more ear-blaringly annoying. You’re not as good as you think you are bro, sorry.
Do I recommend you see Chappie? I suppose you can say yes, but you have to possess a high tolerance for annoying things popping up here and there. You also have to enjoy sci-fi, especially since the ending goes hardcore nerd. But there’s enough adrenaline-pumping action scenes and touching character moments to get the attention of mostly any moviegoer.
I give Chappie a 7.5 out of 10.