From the director of District 9 and Elysium, a robot is given a chance to experience growing up in a city of gangland warfare after an experimental artificial consciousness is loaded into it.
Dev Patel (of Slumdog Millionaire fame) plays Deon, a praised robotics designer responsible for ending most crime in Johannesburg by inventing Scout robots for the police forces. When one of these scouts is terribly damaged he takes the opportunity to experiment; installing an artificial intelligence he designed into it. But when his child-like prototype falls into the hands of two gangland thugs intent on raising the robot as a criminal and a fellow robotics designer wants Deon’s Scouts replaced by his own military robots, Deon has a fight on two fronts.
First things first, I really enjoy director Neill Blomkamp’s first two films, but yes… Chappie is part RoboCop, part Short Circuit. There are even scenes ripped clean from those movies, from our synthetic hero being helplessly beaten up by thugs, being pinned down and dismembered, which would pull at my heartstrings had I not seen it before. Hugh Jackman stars as Deon’s rival Vincent Moore who has designed a robot almost exactly like ED-209.
But wait, before you start calling me a hypocrite; if you read my blog regularly you will know I hate remakes and have even stated I would prefer things to be like other films rather than direct remakes. Chappie is one such movie. Yes it is inspired by and borrows from classics, but it is its own invention. I will take Chappie over the 2014 RoboCop any day of the year!
Neill Blompkamp’s style is everywhere, and I love it. The man’s obsession with the destroyed, crumbling and ruined city of Johannesburg continues, the music is synth, people are covered in tattoos and speak in impenetrable accents. The visual effects on Chappie are incredible, motion capture and voice acted by Blomkamp’s mainstay Shartlo Copley (gratefully allowed to ham up his acting this time, being an eccentric robot) and the action is strong, although perhaps not as incredible as District 9‘s finale.
But unlike his previous films, Blomkamp’s third part of his self-styled “trilogy” is perhaps the most human. While a lot of characters are as self centred as his previous ones, by the finale I found myself really sympathising with them, even the ones who you positively hated earlier. When that happens, you realise this film has been doing something right all the way through.
It was a decent movie, though maybe not as involved as District 9 or as grand as Elysium, I enjoyed it.
Additional Marshmallows: The two gangsters who take in Chappie, Ninja and Yolandi are actually named Ninja and Yolandi and are hip-hop and electronica musicians.