March 12, 2015
Chappie (** ½) Rated R
Neil Blomkamp’s third feature film Chappie, following on the heels of Elysium and his Oscar nominated debut District 9, is a decent enough sci-fi tale that suffers in comparison to his previous work but has its moments nonetheless. As typically found in a BloomKamp film, there are some big ideas at work, giving the film its strengths. Unfortunately, the film has some real problems in the narrative department that keep it from being the potential home run it could have been had the director fine tuned things a bit in the scripting phase.
The Chappie of the film’s title is a robot imbued with human consciousness. He has all the feelings and emotions that the human race has been endowed with but is saddled with the body of a robot. The film is set in South Africa, like Blomkamp’s previous works. It also takes place in a near future of some sort where society is patrolled by a robotic police force.
Dev Patel, continuing to capitalize on the fame that the Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire afforded him years ago, stars as robot creator Deon.
Chappie, left, with Dev Patel
He’s intelligent and compassionate and also the most rounded character in the film’s script. He’s obsessed with coming up with a way to impart robots with the human emotions that make us so unique. He finds his opportunity when the robotic police force that presides over things suffers a casualty. After his plan to humanize robots is thwarted by his by-the-book superior, played by Sigourney Weaver, he decides to take matters into his own hands and repair the damaged robot and also make it human in the process.
Hugh Jackman is a rival who is eager to put the current police force out to pasture in favor of a newer and bigger model of robot. He’s also the most cartoonishly written character in the film but I guess every film has to have a villain and he’s the best that Chappie has to offer.
Chappie eventually winds up in the company of a group of outlaws who teach him some good things but mostly use him for their lawless schemes. This is where the film manages to veer off the tracks before finally getting its act together for the finale. The miscasting of rock vocalists Ninja and Yolandi Vissir in the pivotal roles of Chappie’s mentors doesn’t help matters either.
Of course, one would expect that Chappie would have some great visual effects to behold and if that’s what you’re expecting you won’t be disappointed. Unfortunately, a film’s visual scheme can only take it so far and with Chappie the story has so many problems one has to rely on the film’s sensual pleasures. At least it isn’t mind numbing and if Chappie is a misfire one could certainly find worse ways to invest their time. Faint praise, indeed.
Chappie is playing in theaters all around this area.
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