Review: Chappie – Johnny 5 for a new generation

Finally got around to seeing Chappie. After the critics panned it, and those great trailers, and the poor opening weekend, I waited and I waited, and waited…
Chappie is about a robotic police force in South Africa, but one of these robots gains sentience. Throw in a pair of rap/pop artists who play gangsters and Wolverine as the antagonist and that’s what you get.

The good; the visual effects are amazing. At no point did I think Chappie was a puppet or a computer generated figure. The interaction between Chappie and the actors is flawless, very stunning.
The actions of Chappie aren’t overly done, they’re just right to make you believe that it’s a robot, but then gradually becomes more fluid and human in the movements.

I love that he watches He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

Neil Blomkamp once again uses Johannesburg as the location. I like the near future depiction of society, the opening sequence really brings us up to speed with what’s been going on in this world. It uses the documentary style and news reporting style to convey the story in a few minutes, very well done.

The themes that are brought up are great both philosophically and existentially. What responsibility do we take on when we create life? What impact does technology have on society? There are some religious themes that get brought up as well, should we create artificial intelligence? What is our responsibility as creator and steward of this new “life?”
I enjoyed having these themes percolating in my brain as the film played out.

The bad; the story needed another pass. The characters are way to one-dimensional. Hugh Jackman plays the bad guy… but why? His motivations weren’t enough to rationalize why he does what he does. There’s a hint that he’s religious, he crosses himself several times, but it’s never addressed which bugged me. Is he against Chappie cause he thinks humanity is playing god? Is he a religious zealot? It stuck out every time he did it, but there was no pay off for why, he just simply did, and that’s not good enough for me.

The consistency with Chappie’s accelerated learning was a problem. It takes him all but five minutes to learn how to talk from the moment he’s activated, he form words and starts learning names of things. Then he’s all but five years old in days, he’s a kid wanting things, playing with things, and easily persuaded to do things by mere trickery. That’s as far as his personal growth goes… is he can learn to talk in five minutes, he should be progressing far beyond a five year old’s mentality.

The ending… oh the ending… it could’ve went another direction, something more opening ended. The film’s ending did not “fit” with the rest of the movie, it almost felt like the studio tacked this ending on.

Overall, I enjoyed this film, despite my criticisms. It helped that the critics did not like this film, I almost want all critics to hate everything so that I can lower my expectations enough to enjoy it. Chappie is a visual achievement that brings up a lot of philosophical themes, but it drops these themes just as quickly as they’re brought up. I would’ve enjoyed more time spent on the development of Chappie as a person, rather than having him in arrested development as a child. Even further, the human characters needed more development as well, instead of being one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs, time and resources should’ve been diverted in to the script. I will say that Chappie is a much more pleasing movie than Blomkamp’s previous film, Elysium.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *