Neill Blomkamp got his career started off on the right foot with the Academy Award nominated ‘District 9’. Two movies later, he’s still trying to cook up some of that magic again. Is he able to do that with ‘Chappie’? Or do we just get a movie dominated by a talking robot, Hugh Jackman with an ugly haircut and khaki shorts?
In a future Johannesburg, the police are now made up of robots who have successfully been dealing with crime in the city. After one robot is damaged and sent to be destroyed, it is stolen and given new programming so that it will be able to learn, think and feel like a human. While the captors of the new programmed robot, Chappie (Sharlto Copely), are using it for their own selfish purposes, the company responsible for the crime fighting robots and the authorities are trying to get their hands on the robot before he becomes a potential uncontrollable problem for the rest of the world.
Yeah, I Liked That
There is really one main reason why I enjoyed ‘Chappie’ and that reason is the performance by Copely as Chappie. He was great as the “new born babyish” robot. Yes it was through a motion capture performance but I have nothing but respect for those who do a great job in their mo-cap performances (that’s why I’m always talking about how awesome Andy Serkis is as Caesar in the current ‘Planet of the Apes’ movies). As soon as Chappie was given new life and started to learn about the world around him, Copely was able to portray a robot learning in a human world as best as that can even be portrayed. What made his performance even more entertaining was that fact the he was funny throughout whether purposefully or accidental. How he would copy everything that he was learning was just hilarious to me. How he would mimic little hand gestures that one of Chappie’s captors, Yankie a.k.a. Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo), would do just seemed to be done in a “robotesque” way. Copely also used the tone in his voice to reflect the youthful excitement Chappie had while being able to learn all these things whether they were actually right or wrong. How he delivered his lines had me quoting many of them after the movie was done. I just wanted to run up on someone on the street and tell them “You go sleepy weepy now!” but without a knife of course (you’ll get it when you see the movie).
As I just tried to explain, Chappie was the best part of the movie by far and was the funniest part as well so its only right that he’s part of the funniest scene in the movie. After his “daddy”, Ninja (Ninja from the music group Die Antwoord) tells him that people have stole his cars, Chappie is forced to go up to all these random cars and steal them from their owners. I found it to be so funny because while doing it, Chappie was running around wearing all these chains around his neck and just kept yelling, “You steal daddy’s car?!” I might be the only one who felt that way but I don’t care because that was just hilarious even if my description doesn’t do it justice. Now before I move on from Copely’s great performance, I will nitpick and say his voice was kind of annoying at points but whatever.
Yeah, I Didn’t Like That
I know I only really touched on one thing that made the movie enjoyable but here I want to mention a few different things that were negatives for ‘Chappie’. First up, little plot details in the movie seemed to be forced to make the plot move forward. One in particular occurred towards the end of the movie, when Chappie comes up with an idea to save himself (trying not to spoil too much). He seems to become a lot smarter than he was just a second before that and this is before he gets any computer help. I know he’s a robot but I don’t know how he can go from being so naive (since he doesn’t no any better) to being able to come up with an intellectual plan so quickly. While we’re on the topic of the ending, I wasn’t a big fan of the ending because it reminded me of my worst movie of 2014, ‘Transcendence’. I won’t spoil it and you probably won’t get what I’m talking about unless you watch ‘Transcendence’ (please don’t though because your time is too precious for you just to waste it watching that garbage) but things were sort of similar to the point that I was not feeling it. Even if I didn’t see that awful attempt at a movie, I still wouldn’t of liked that weird (and not in a good way) ending.
I praised Copely for his acting performance in the movie but some other people who took part in ‘Chappie’ don’t deserve the same praise whether it’s their fault or not. Let’s start with those who aren’t really to blame for their performances…or should I say the person who isn’t really to blame for her performance. Sigourney Weaver was just poorly used in this movie. When you have an actor of her caliber, she should be able to do more than just sit behind a desk for a majority of the time. Now on to those who were given a lot of time on screen but it just didn’t work out how they liked. Two members of the group Die Antwoord (Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser) played lead roles in the movie but they showed that their acting skills aren’t really there. They weren’t horrible but when they had their bad moments, it was very evident. For Ninja, it’s like he didn’t even prepare at all for some of the stuff he had to do. I mean the way he held a gun looked like he just picked one up for the first time before the cameras started rolling and thought to himself “which way would I look the coolest?”. In the case of Visser, she started out awful but her inability to act was toned down when she wasn’t asked to deliver the hardest lines. The lack of skills she had did peak its head up though a few more times before the credits rolled. I haven’t forgot about Dev Patel…OK I kind of did. He was in a majority of the movie and did fine but his character was just really forgettable. When it comes to the A list celebrity in the movie, Jackman, he didn’t do anything great or awful. He was just there wearing khakis so there isn’t really much to say.
Although entertaining, ‘Chappie’ is another step back for Blomkamp (after ‘Elysium’). It’s kind of unfair though because those movies aren’t bad, in my opinion. He just set the bar really high with the surprising ‘District 9’. I just hope he doesn’t become another M. Night Shyamalan down the road.
RATING: Might Rent (This was a tough one. This is why I always think I should redo my ratings system but oh well. I wouldn’t mind owning this movie based off Copely’s great performance but I would be fine just watching this movie once more on a renting it basis)
P.S. Once again here is my rating scale. There are four different levels. Below is each level in order from best to worse and what each one means.
Must Own = A movie that is so good that I must add it to my Blu-ray collection when it comes out.
Would Accept as a Gift = I enjoyed the movie but don’t necessarily have to buy it (especially if I don’t have the funds to) myself but I would take it if someone bought it for me.
Might Rent = A movie that if I have the urge to watch again then I’ll just rent it from somewhere or Netflix it.
Never See Again = Very simple. I don’t want to ever see this movie again.
(Photo Credit: Meredith Woerner – http://io9.com/neill-blomkamps-robot-chappie-is-super-happy-has-a-gun-1654199986; Adam Chitwood – http://collider.com/chappie-images/; https://lockerdome.com/6557163480941121/7125093452218388)