Review of 'Chappie'

chappie.jpg In a Johannesburg of the future, crime is out of control so robots are brought in to assist the police. Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) is the designer of the robots but is more interested in making a robot that can think and learn for itself rather than act out on it's basic programming. Rebutted by his boss (played by Sigourney Weaver) he decides to steal a police robot scheduled for destruction having been badly damaged in a fire-fight. A small group of petty crooks kidnap Deon to have him give them the key to the police robots that will shut them down but they are talked into allowing him to rebuild the robot and allow Deon to install his consciousness program into it.

And so, Chappie (voiced by Sharlto Copley), is born.

If so far this sounds a bit like Robocop, it is here the story somewhat diverges…

Initially a silent child Chappie quickly learns and is eventually twisted by the gang who hold him hostage, wanting him to assist them in a robbery. He is shown how to walk (and talk) tough and is dressed up with various bling but quickly realizes the leader of the gang does not have the best interests of Chappie in mind and the hard reality of life sets in. Throughout Chappie struggles to maintain his sense of right and wrong but also to learn what it is to be alive.

Back at the robot company a jealous employee (Hugh Jackman) has his own heavily military robot program that has been shelved because of the success of Deon so plots against him by reprogramming the police robots…

Another amazing and intriguing film from Blomkamp (who, you may recall, gave us District 9 and Elysium - two other South African films that make you think) with incredible special effects. You believe that Chappie is alive and very quickly sympathize with him. The acting is believable but after the first half does not have a lot to do as the bullets start flying. I found it interesting the portrayal of the underbelly of society in such a favourable light - After all, they are humans too, and that part is not shirked from here. Indeed, I would have to say this is, ironically for a film whose main character is a robot, probably the most human of all of Blomkamp's films. There is still an element of “bad guy” and “good guy” but there are also those that fall in between…refreshingly.

I am not sure this would have been made by Hollywood…though I have to say that in regards to this point I did find the end almost a cop-out and a bit to “easy”. In some ways I wish that the filmmakers had taken a bit more of a risk here though to say more would spoil the film for those that have not seen it. So, see it and see if you understand what I am getting at.

I was pleasantly surprised by Chappie - Not really a movie that I expected to see based on what had been in the trailers. Much more depth and interest yet still enough action to keep the popcorn-eaters entertained…though if you expect all-action you will not get it here. If you like your Science Fiction with a bit more depth certainly have a look…

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2015-03-14

Directed by: Neill Blomkamp

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Year: 2015

Length: 120 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction

Other reviewed films by Neill Blomkamp: