Chappie Review

The Plot

In the near future, police droids are patrolling the streets of South Africa, bringing the crime rate down drastically. But when their creator (Dev Patel) steals a decommissioned droid and programmes it to think and feel for itself, trouble begins…

The Good

While Chappie is certainly not quite welcome  up to the high standards of  Blomkamp’s brilliant debut District 9, it’s certainly a step up from his rather disappointing follow-up, Elysium. Chappie shows that he still has what it takes to explore interesting themes in challenging new sci-fi. As the third piece of an unofficial trilogy of stylish dark science fiction, it’s also proof that the Alien franchise is now definitely back in safe hands with Blomkamp’s planned sequel.

Chappie opens with the same documentary style showcased in District 9, before swiftly moving onto the main action and exploring some great ideas. Though it occasionally loses its footing, the film stumbles along proudly.

Blomkamp’s past success and distinctive style has helped him assemble a talented cast of familiar faces. Dev Patel delivers a great performance as the kind hearted robot inventor determined to educate and protect Chappie, keeping his existence secret from his more sinister colleagues. Hugh Jackman has fun playing against type as a mullet sporting bad guy and sci-fi legend Sigourney Weaver is a welcome addition as his ruthless boss.

It’s an undoubtedly strong supporting cast, but praise must go first and foremost to Sharlto Copley in the titular role. As the voice of heroic robot Chappie, Copley breathes so much life into the character that audiences completely forget they’re watching a carefully crafted CGI creation. It’s a compelling combination of performance and visual effects which equals the widely celebrated achievements of Andy Serkis in the recent Planet of the Apes franchise.

As Chappie comes to life, so does the film. Chappie starts out with an endearingly infantile and navie personality. Slowly learning about the world and himself, just like a human child would. A task made more complex by the dramatic contrast between his creator and his adoptive gangster parents played by members of real life South African rap group Die Antwodd.

The juxtaposition and conflict between these three characters injects some interesting and thought provoking themes into the film amongst its actions sequences. It helps Chappie almost reach the impressively high standards set by Blomkamp’s auspicious debut Dirstrict 9.

The Bad

As mentioned before, Chappie does come a little loose in terms of its style and the message it wants to bring to audiences.

In one corner we have a genuinely interesting plot which raises questions about artificial intelligence that, although not particularly groundbreaking, are still exciting to explore in this near future world of robocop type police droids. In the other, we have a genuinely exciting action movie with some great set pieces and Hugh Jackman playing a villainous cliché who spends most of his time talking to himself in an almost pantomime way.

The film struggles to reconcile these different elements and combine them into a cohesive story. It’s hard to find a middle ground between the film’s somewhat schizophrenic intention to be a both a scientific think piece and a crowd-pleasing action blockbuster. The film’s contradicting ambitions risks leaving it a confused mess.

An even bigger risk is the film’s occasionally lazy plot holes that are a little too silly to be comfortably ignored.  You’d expect evil high-tech weapons manufacturers to have a state of the art security system. Yet somehow Dev Patel manages to walk expensive and dangerous materials for his homemade artificial intelligence out the back door without anyone noticing until the third act.

The Ugly Truth

Chappie is an accomplished third effort from one of the most distinctive and innovative directors in the sci-fi genre. It’s mostly a return to the impressive form of Distrcit 9 after the relative disappointment of Elysium. While the film occasionally gets confused as to where it should be tonally, Chappie is still a good bit of fun that’s worth your time. Bring on Blomkamp’s Alien sequel.

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