Copley's performance is enough to get you past the shortcomings of this film.
RELEASE DATE: March 6, 2015
STUDIO: Columbia Pictures (Sony)
DIRECTOR: Neill Blomkamp
MPAA RATING: R (for violence, language and brief nudity)
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser
GENRE: Action, Adventure
Chappie, on it’s surface looks like a movie about a self aware robot with lots of action in it. That is not true in the least. What you get is a movie about some crazy concepts. The film questions what happens when you make a sentient being of a robot who has to learn like a baby (at an extremely accelerated speed mind you). You go through the film as Chappie has to figure out who he is and what his place is in the world like every person born has to. Except from day one he is exposed to the best and worst of humanity. What would that do to you or me if we came in to the world that way ? It also deals with how far technological science should be pushed. It makes for a film that asks good questions in some of the wrong ways.
Sharlto Copley plays the title character of Chappie. He and a team of animators bring Chappie to life in an incredibly real and awe inspiring way. Copley plays the robotic police scout with a depth and innocence that draws you in and makes you care about him from the start of his consciousness. He makes you laugh and (I’m man enough to admit) cry. His overall performance should get him some sort of recognition. Dev Patel plays Deon whom created Chappie and his kin. He is kind but determined to prove that artificial intelligence that are conscious of themselves is a good idea. He plays the part decently but it just seems too cliche. Yo-Landi and Ninja (of South African rap group Die Antwoord fame) pretty much play future versions of themselves. Granted, without money or fame and some extensive criminal activity under their belts. They act as surrogate parents for Chappie and represent almost the best and worst in humanity. With Yo-Landi being the loving mother teaching and nurturing Chappie. On the other hand, Ninja is the bad influence that seems intent on showing Chappie how bad the world can be and use Chappie for his own self serving purposes. The parenting scenes offer some of the best parts of the movie but are sometimes a little too silly to an eye rolling effect. Hugh Jackman plays a jealous engineer being out shined by Deon. The part is fairly shallow and isn’t much for the talented Mr. Jackman to sink his teeth in to. Also Sigourney Weaver is a straight forward business woman with little to do in this film.
Neill Blomkamp seems to think the near future is bleak for us as is evidenced by this and his two other films District 9 and Elysium. The near future Johannesburg, South Africa portrayed here is dingy and almost Mad Max like in it’s appearance and structure. It looks as down trodden as the people that inhabit it. This gives the world the right tone for this movie to play out in. It makes for a disturbingly plausible view of the future.
As a sci-fi movie I think it’s good, not amazing, but good. It asks serious questions about the consequences of technological advancement and how far is too far. Also, it speculates on how exposing a child to the craziness and harness of the world too fast can cause harm. The special effects are done well as Chappie never seems computer animated in his scenes. If nothing else the performance of Chappie by Sharlto Copley is worth you watching this one.