MTV Review | Chappie
Neil Blomkamp returns with another sci-fi epic in the shape of an AI robot learning what it means to be human...
UK Release Date: 6 March 2015
Running Time: 120 mins
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman, Ninja, Yo-Landi
Director: Neil Blomkamp
Plot: The movie is set in the all-too-familiar mean streets of Johanessburg (home of Blomkamp’s debut blockbuster District 9). Thousands of “scout” robot officers commissioned by the local PD have managed to push the gangs out into the suburbs, but tensions are high. Dev Patel's prodigy engineer Deon goes against the corporate machine, creating a truly AI robot Chappie that he is forced to hide in the slums – and gets trapped with some dubious characters played by members of South African band Die Antwoord. As, a jealous rival tries to sabotage the project, things get truly messy – and Chappie is becomes the lynchpin in a make-or-break struggle.
Best Scene: The epic threeway battle between Chappie’s “crew”, Hippo and his gang and the menacing Hugh Jackman controlled war-droid The Moose. It’s tense, explosive and dramatic, culminating in the film’s most poignant moment.
Best One Liner: “I've got blings?... I've got blings!“ – the naïve “child bot’s” descent into the Zef subculture and it’s criminal underbelly is at the same time shocking and endearing, It is exemplified by his hilarious misuse of the slang – “F**kmother!”
Date Movie or Mate Movie: With special effects in overdrive and dialogue distinctly gangsta, this may not be the most romantic film to take a lady to. Yet the story of a “baby droid” faced with the horrors and complexities of the “real world” is bound to bring out a tear or two from your partner.
Scene Stealer: The universally adored Hugh Jackman is in unfamiliar territory here as the embittered, near-psychotic engineer Vincent Moore, but he pulls of the villain role in scintillating style. He is Wolverine without the soft filling – and it is truly frightening!
WTF Moment: Not to spoil a crucial twist, but the sudden (and timely!) appearance of the “conscience helmet” comes across as more of a lazy deus-ex-machina plot device than a natural part of the story. Surely an invention like that would be a much bigger deal than some gun-slinging bots?
Summary: A robust mix of Robocop, Short Circuit and other AI classics, Chappie intelligently references some of its predecessors, but also throws in some fresh ideas on the genre. Atmospheric location and impressive visual effects, along with the quirky pair of gangsta sidekicks – Die Antwoord’s Yo-Landi and Ninja playing fictional versions of themselves – make for some entertaining viewing. There is a sweet comic element as well, as Chappie picks up the street linguo and “gangsta strut” from his new pals (“Don't laugh, I'm being cool!»), but it only reinforces the powerful drama that unravels towards the end.
Some viewers may find their suspense of disbelief being shaken in the final few minutes, when the fiction increasingly overshadows the «science», but the high tempo helps the story glide over some of the incongruities. You may also be forgiven for questioning Ninja & Yo-Landa's acting chops (though they make up for it in charisma) and expecting a bit more depth from the other supporting characters.
But ultimately, the movie is about Chappie becoming human, for bad or for worse, and the subversive energy and panache make this a highly watchable flick.
By Yevgeny Kuklytchev