Director : Neil Blomkamp
Writers : Neil Blomkamp & Teri Tatchell
There are many reasons to avoid Chappie. The cast list of Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver and the kid from Slumdog seem like an odd mix already, but then throw in Ninja and Yo-Landi ( both non-actors from South African band Di-Antwoord), and a talking Robot, and you should be running for the hills. It's a miracle this ever got financed. But then it starts and it all makes sense.
This movie is completely off it’s head. We begin in the world of Ninja and Yo-Landi. A massive gunfight erupts between them, their associates and the robot police force. The story is set in the near future South Africa but the visuals and the international sounding cast make the world seem a quite alien.
Full disclosure: I’m no fan of Hugh Jackman when he sings and dances. I’m no fan of him when he’s pretending to be a Wolverine. I could live with him in The Prestige and will begrudgingly admit he was good in Prisoners, but he is great in Chappie. Gone is the cheesiness that so often pervades his performances, and at no point was there any threat of him breaking into song. It’s probably the mullet that does it. It mind remind him of his Correlli days, when musical theatre was a WADA memory, and there was a smoldering anger lurking just below the surface. In Chappie he lets that anger out and it’s magnificent.
As good as Jackman is, the success of the movie rests on how you feel about Chappie(voiced by Sharlto Copely) himself, and the little bugger wins you over pretty quickly once he progresses from a machine to an energetic puppy then finally to a self-aware soul.
Blomkamp has a knack for finding different ways to critique society. District 9 inventively skewered South African cultural divides and Elysium took the analogy off the ‘have’s and the have not’s” into outer space. Here, the device of Chappie’s accelerated ageing allows him to show the world from a view of an innocent, without the complications that we place on ourselves and it provides him the opportunity to have a machine remind us how to be human.
All of that satire and subtext needs a plot though, and Chappie has conflict in two very different worlds. Deon (Dev Patel) and Vincent (Jackman) are working on competing law enforcement projects for a robotics company with a government contract. Deon’s automated “Scouts” are favoured and are deployed across the city while Vincent’s “Moose”, which require human control, gathers dust. Outside of the lab, Crime lord Hippo (Brandon Auret) is demanding $20million from Ninja and Yolandi. Chappie gets caught in the middle of everything.
Despite being a highly nerdy Robotics engineer, it appears that Deon has never seen any science fiction in his life and when he finds the formula for creating Artificial Intelligence, decides to test it on a damaged robot who becomes Chappie – what could go wrong? Unsurprisingly things do not go to plan and Chappie, ends up in the hands of Ninja and Yolandi. Ninja acts like a physcotic tennis dad as he trains him to help on the big ‘heist’ (and to be 'cool'), while Yolandi is the nurturing mother.
While all this sounds high concept and could have easily turned into high farce, the reality is that this is a very funny, touching movie that makes you think. When Chappie asks “why did you build me to die maker?” it's a legitimate question and one that we usually do our best to avoid thinking about ourselves.
A Must See