When a film is a commercial success, the director of that film is suddenly burdened with an immense amount of pressure to create a worthy follow-up project. The level of expectation is often entirely too high and so the films following are seen as failures. After the highly successful release of District 9, Neill Blomkamp gave us Elysium. With the immense shadow of District 9 looming, Elysium was proclaimed a failure. Now, two years later we meet Chappie. As a sort of homage to the story of Pinocchio, Chappie is a tale of not only self-discovery but world discovery as well. Laced with themes of human betrayal and poverty and even police corruption, Chappie takes the Pinocchio story and modernizes it. And much the same as his previous projects, this film is centered on robotics and their metaphorical role simply as someone or something that is different. The fact that these characters are robots is irrelevant to the theme of being an outcast or seen as less than worthwhile. The description of robot in this film could be replaced with any number of other types of people or topical subjects facing the world today. As inhuman as Chappie is physically speaking, he is a representation of mankind and the influences faced from adolescence to adulthood.
Now, let’s talk about Die Antwoord; whenever I think about these individuals I smile and I chuckle. A rap group hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, the members consist of Ninja, Yolandi Visser, and DJ Hi-Tek. Sans DJ Hi-Tek, Die Antwoord is the highly unique human focus of this story. Longtime friends of Blomkamp, they not only star in their first feature length but they also dominate the majority of the film’s soundtrack. Having previous knowledge of them prior to this film, it made the experience of watching them all the more enjoyable. And as for their music, I don’t get it but kudos to them for attempting to be original. After seeing the film, my favorite reason for them being a part of it is basically everything you see from them aside from the crime aspect is them in real life. The clothing they wear, the tattoos covering their bodies, the decoration preferences, and even the way they speak is all Die Antwoord. And because of this freedom that Blomkamp allowed them, I guarantee you will never see another movie like this. I have to add that surprisingly their acting (my biggest worry) was not horrible. They played their parts and in my opinion pulled it off.
Chappie (Sharlto Copley) is a robot with the first case of sentience. He can feel, reason, and think for himself. Much like a child he must learn from those he encounters and so he is therefore a product of his environment. Unfortunately for Chappie he encounters criminals bent on using him for illegal activities. Wanting to be good but also wanting to please his “mommy” and “daddy” he reluctantly becomes one of the gang. He participates in grand theft auto and armed vehicle robbery and a plethora of other wrongdoings. As Chappie is molded by the people who “adopted” him, outside entities are not happy about his existence; specifically Vincent (Hugh Jackman). Vincent is an engineer at the same place where Chappie came in to being. Vincent believes that true A.I. is a dangerous and ill-advised idea not to be trifled with. He sees Chappie’s very existence as a threat to mankind and must be destroyed. Chappie wants nothing more than to live and be decent but outside forces may not allow him such a peaceful reality.
So far (in my opinion) Blomkamp has not topped District 9; Chappie included. Despite this though, I haven’t been disappointed by his films yet. Elysium was overall weaker and less coherently structured but it was an entertaining thrill ride with absolutely breathtaking visual effects. Chappie is much the same; it’s not the most intelligible film in his repertoire but it is sufficiently charming and just as distinctive as anything he’s ever done. And once again, the visuals are a spectacle all their own. Filled with adequate performances, an engaging enough storyline and phenomenal effects, Chappie is anything but a failure in my eyes. Maybe I’m becoming a bit of a Neill Blomkamp fanboy (so be it) but for my money, he hasn’t failed yet. See it for the delightful character that Chappie is and stay for the visuals and wonderful characters that follow.
Rated R For: violence, language and brief nudity
Run Time: 120 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Hugh Jackman, Ninja, Yolandi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Sigourney Weaver
Directed By: Neill Blomkamp
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 3.5/ Acting: 3.5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Check out the trailer below:
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