Chappie is South African director Neill Blomkamp’s third film. It is the most technically impressive work of his young career, but the story, which blatantly borrows from classics of the genre, fails him and renders the movie into a series of redundant scenes and predictable outcomes. By the mid-way point, I was ready for Chappie and his outcast cohorts to go away.
In the future the streets of Johannesburg, SA are being patrolled by robotic police droids known as ‘Scouts’. The genius behind the machine is Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), an engineer working for the Tetravaal Corp. The Ceo of the company Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver), is thrilled with the success of the robots and the financial windfall sure to come. She refuses to entertain the plan for a secondary, more military efficient robot/creature christened ‘Moose’, guided by the hand of ex-solder Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman).
One day in a pitch meeting, the chief of police admits that things would have to become uncontrollable in the streets, before they would authorize the use of Moose on citizens. Giving way to Vincent’s idea to short-circuit all of the Scout’s on patrol, causing chaos in the city.
Meanwhile, a trio of street thugs kidnaps Deon in the hopes of a big payday. They soon realize that the designer was stealing a robot marked for destruction. Their payday now seems like a lottery ticket, the problem is that this unit has been implanted with a special program that allows the robot to attain consciousness.
The gangsters serve as a sort of parental unit for the baby-like Chappie. Ninja, the father figure, is intent on teaching the robot how to kill and become a weapon for their planned heist. However, Deon has instructed Chappie to not kill nor break laws. While, Yolandi is the nurturing mother to the often scared and confused machine with emotions.
Chappie‘s special effects are astounding, actor Sharlto Copley was used for the robot’s motion capture performance, and there are moments that capture true movie magic. I just wish that the movie and its author/director Neill Blomkamp had something new to say. The themes present on-screen are the same that have abounded in all three of his films, so far. It would be a nice change of pace for him to apply his technical expertise and obvious filmmaking prowess in a new direction. Inventive Hans Zimmer score greatly aids the film.
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Stars: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman