Sunday, March 8, 2015

Chappie - Movie Review

Chappie is film maker Neill Blomkamp's third feature film (Elysium, District 9) that he has both written and directed. The movie stars Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, and Brandon Auret along with South African hip hop duo Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser.

In a world where a robotic police force is being developed to assist human officers, there are those who oppose the development of computer programs that could lead to artificial intelligence. The engineer (Patel) who created the robots that are currently in use has continued to make advancements to his program and has nearly reached the point of where it could actually become self aware. When his efforts are shut down, he decides to take matters into his own hands by finishing his work outside the company he works for. Unfortunately for him, he runs into a group of criminals who are looking for a way to shut down the robots or even turn one to their side if they can figure out how. Meanwhile, a former military officer who has been developing his own alternative program is doing everything he can to stop the engineer from creating something that might change the world forever.

As a director, Neill Blomkamp is not afraid of making a film as he sees fit and without conforming to the trappings of Hollywood formula. His first film, District 9, sent shock waves through the industry with an innovative visual style and story telling techniques that some would consider far from conventional. These attributes are what makes his films so entertaining and original even if American critics and audiences get a little lost in how different they are. To me, it's very interesting to see such a raw representation of South Africa, even if it is a slightly futuristic and stylized version of the culture and politics, with the number one example of this being the inclusion of local rap group Die Antwoord into the cast as prominent characters. They fit so well into Blomkamp's world and end up being key to the emotional impact of how Chappie goes from being just a robot to something much more.

The rest of the cast is more well known and, while there are no standout performances, we do get solid work from Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, and Sigourney Weaver. Patel is rather convincing as an engineer who wants to use technology to make the world a better place while Jackman and Weaver get to show us what they can do when they are playing antagonists rather than the heroic figures we normally see them as. One last bit of casting you may not realize although would definitely expect would be the inclusion of Sharlto Copley in a Blomkamp film. The pair have now been together for all three of the director's movies although this time Copley is only present as the voice of Chappie and not as an on screen character. Still, he brings so much personality to a nearly faceless robot that he becomes a big key to the movie working by making Chappie such a likable character.

Chappie is a movie I really enjoyed although it took me a bit to figure that out. It is such a different type of movie than we normally see that it takes a little thought to digest everything Blomkamp throws into it. I can see where some people are not liking it as it is very unique and stylized and at times a bit brash. For my part, I thought it was a very enjoyable and entertaining bit of science fiction that hearkens back to films like Short Circuit, Wall-E, and I, Robot while doing just as much to push the genre forward.


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