'Chappie' - Movie Review

Updated on July 6, 2019
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interest is science fiction and zombie movies. Pessimistic and survival films I also enjoy a lot.

After the unfair reception of Elysium, Neill Blomkamp decided that his third film would make amends with the critics. This new project had to escape District 9's shadow at all costs.

Blomkamp really sketched a great script. Chappie would deal with topics such as the stylization of crime as a way of life and the monopolization of violence through dehumanized police and its effect on the population. In addition, it would take the classic Pinocchio story using urban sci-fi elements (artificial-intelligence-related) and then revert them effectively and intelligently, thus experimenting with the topic.

Chappie, an android with advanced artificial intelligence destined to be a police enforcer, is robbed by a group of criminal gangsters. Chappie, whose AI is developed and expanded as he learns from its environment, is like a child affected by his background. Chappie grows its personality by learning from the behavior of humans. That's an interesting premise about our violent human input in even our own creations. Chappie has an interesting take on the artificial intelligence movie genre.

Blomkamp was very excited. He had even recruited Dev Patel as the noble programmer creator of Chappie and Hugh Jackman as his nemesis Vincent Moore, a disturbing ex-military engineer. Sigourney Weaver would also be the CEO of Tetravaal, the company behind the androids. A top notch casting, for sure.

And of course, above all that deep and promising story, Blomkamp had filled the script with wonderful action scenes, gunfights, and explosions. Violence, entertainment, and social criticism. The formula that produces legends.

However, Blomkamp felt something was missing from his script. His personal seal was there, but not with the necessary power and clarity.

And after thinking about it a bit, he understood that what was missing from his script was South Africa.

Blomkamp then added two plus two. An urban-based script, with street gangsters, would make a perfect match with the South African rap duo/electronica Die Antwoord. Ninja and Yolandi, at the peak of their popularity, had to be in this movie.

Unfortunately, the artistic conditions for Die Antwoord to accept the deal along with--what had to be--Blomkamp's starstruck fanboy headset, ended up tainting the script and transforming it, for long periods of time, into an extensive Die Antwoord music video.

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Ninja and Yolandi overshadow even the main character, Chappie, in an unwanted way. They assume the comedic side, but also the emotional and dramatic aspect. Yolandi, for example, is at the same time a gangster, a sexy woman, a mother, a goddess and reincarnated android. And when two bad actors get that kind of responsibility, the results are never ideal.

This is my version of what I believe happened with Chappie. It may be full of inconsistencies and a couple of fallacies, but it's the only logical explanation I can come up with this huge casting mistake.

Because yes, the result hurts. Chappie is a movie that should have gone straight up to the sci-fi pantheon.

Because the most incredible thing is that, although the premise and execution sound like an assured disaster, Chappie is NOT a trainwreck. In spite of everything, Blomkamp proved to be a talented filmmaker.

Yes, Die Antwoord hinders the good experience of Chappie, but this film doesn't stop being an underestimated gem. Yes, it's perhaps Blomkamp's most superficial film, but that shouldn't be assumed as an error, but just a different tone choice.

Perhaps time, when it makes us forget the highly mediated Die Antwoord, will make us revaluate the whole movie in a more positive light. The great themes are there. The charismatic performance of Sharlto Copley as the titular android (in a third interesting metamorphosis with Blomkamp) is there. Jackman and Patel being the Yin and Yang of humanity are there, even with their lines cut out.

Let's hope so.

Movie Details

Title: Chappie

Release Year: 2015

Director(s): Neill Blomkamp

Actors: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman a.o.

2 stars for Chappie

© 2019 Sam Shepards

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