Chappie (2015)

Chappie (2015)
  • Time: 120 min
  • Genre: Action | Sci-Fi | Thriller
  • Director: Neill Blomkamp
  • Cast: Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley


In the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. But now, the people are fighting back. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. As powerful, destructive forces start to see Chappie as a danger to mankind and order, they will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo and ensure that Chappie is the last of his kind.


  • Quickie Review:

    A new era has begun where a robotic police force patrols the city of Johannesburg. Their creator, Deon (Dev Patel) develops a program for consciousness and builds the first ever sentient robot Chappie (Sharlto Copley). However, Chappie is forcefully kept away from Deon by gangsters who want to use the robot to commit crimes. There are some big concepts here packaged in an action heavy movie. Visually and stylistically director Neill Blomkamp’s flare is clearly present and well put together. Also Copley’s acting is top notch in showing how Chappie grows and changes in the movie. And yet all those positives brought down simply because the main actors Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser are not good actors with too much time spent on them. Chappie is interesting, but I’d recommend holding off spending your money on it.

    Full Review:

    I loved District 9, the directorial debut of Neill Blomkamp. It was a gritty sci-fi with very relevant social commentary on racism and segregation. Even his next movie Elysium despite being a little underwhelming, I ended up liking it overall. So it’s suffice to say I was looking forward to Chappie.

    There are quite a few things that I really liked about Chappie. The best of which is Sharlto Copley’s performance as the titular robot. When he is first brought to life Chappie is practically a baby, completely new to the world. Like a child he is extremely curious and yet at the same time naïve enough that he is easily moulded by his guardians, which in his case are unfortunately two criminals. Whenever he is being manipulated by these people I felt bad for Chappie, I sympathised with him. So the fact that Copley got me to feel that way about a robot is definitely impressive. The theme of nature versus nurture is obvious here, but it is conveyed effectively. Visually this a great looking film, which shouldn’t come as a surprise but still praiseworthy. The action scenes are explosive and gets your blood pumping. That’s also thanks to the great original score by Hans Zimmer.

    The unfortunate thing is, most people like myself will leave the movie frustrated because of one mistake that Blomkamp makes. One day while listening to the band Die Antwoord of Ninja and Yo-Landi, he had the thought of what it’d be like if these two people were gangsters and raised a robot. Definitely a unique and interesting idea, but instead of hiring actual actors to bring that vision to life he hired the real band members as themselves. This was a critical mistake because they were horrible actors and just annoying to watch. I understand that I wasn’t supposed to like these characters because they were practically child abusers with Chappie, but their over the top acting made me look forward to the scenes they weren’t in. Then when the final climatic fight happens and these two characters are in peril, I didn’t care one bit for their safety. That’s a huge failure if I don’t care for the well-being of the main characters.

    Chappie like previous Blomkamp movies have some relevant themes and concepts. However the execution of the whole vision is not always consistent mainly due to having the focus on two people that couldn’t act. Sharlto Copley as Chappie redeems the movie from being a complete disaster, and for that reason I wouldn’t mind recommending watching the movie through a video streaming service. As for cinema, this a matinee at best.

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  • Chappie, the third film created by Neill Blomkamp (District 9 & Elysium), tells the story of a robot with artificial intelligence, who is stolen by a trio of local gangsters, who want to use him for their own corrupt purposes. Chappie is set in Johannesburg (once again) and displays an array of acting talent from Hugh Jackman (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), to South African rap-race duo Ninja and Yolandi Visser, from Die Antwoord.

    It’s safe to safe Chappie is far from original, this is the third film where Blomkamp bases his story on an underdog taking on a global corporation and the similarities doesn’t stop there. He masks the same film in different characters and sets, but the core of the film doesn’t change. Chappie also uses ideas from other films, which is clear to see by Vincent’s (Hugh Jackman) robot, which has a huge similarity to RoboCop. It’s a huge disappointment that after Blomkamp’s huge success from his debut film, District 9, that he seems to be turning out to be a one trick pony.

    The biggest issue for me is the casting, it’s simply all wrong, barring Dev Patel. Ninja and Yolandi Visser have no…
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  • “He’s a happy chappie.” So says the character Yolandi and in one instant, a funky robot from Neill Blomkamp’s latest release, gets his name. Playing itself out as RoboCop meets Short Circuit (the gangster version), 2015’s Chappie really finds its director in his element here. Blomkamp’s vision of sci-fi consists of slow motion shots featuring his caricatures leaping, plenty of artificial intelligence red herrings, and a grubby, draggy look that in turn, gives an audience member the feeling of a slumming, dystopian punk rock society. This is a guy who tends to make the same vehicle again and again with gadgetry masked as art exhibit. The only difference is that Chappie as opposed to his two other feature films (Elysium and District 9), tends to have more of a heart in certain scenes. I may be rambling but is he the right choice to take over the Alien franchise? Based on a stubbornly, headstrong style, probably not. Is he wholly original minus the occasional borrowing from other futuristic, action/thriller fare? Sure, I’ll give you that one.

    Chappie takes place in a militarized, corrupt civilization where regular cops are called “pigs” and robotic cops are called “dogs”. It’s violent in a hail of gunfire sort of way but bloodless for almost half of its tempestuous two hours (there’s less heads exploding this time around). The story brings us back to Blomkamp’s old digs being the dusty slums of Johannesburg, South Africa. Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) is an inventor of robots. These robots are used in harnessing the crime wave via Johannesburg’s many decaying neighborhoods. Deon’s boss at Tetravaal (the company he works at) is Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver). She’s happy with Deon’s work but prevents him from developing a new concept, robots that mimic the human mind. Deon defies her and instead implants a forbidding program into one of the bots who was destroyed in the line of duty. The plot workings then become more compound. Deon gets robbed by hoodlums who want to use his new found creation (Chappie, a humanistic android whose learning process initially is that of a five year old) to pull off a major heist. They owe twenty million dollars to the type of nasty criminal you don’t want to tick off. And it doesn’t help that a disgruntled employee at the other end of Tetravaal’s ideals (Hugh Jackman as weapons expert Vincent Moore), wants to destroy Chappie in order to make way for his own robotic menace, MOOSE.

    Now I liked almost all the characters in Chappie and the acting ranged from standard to haphazard to flat out excellent. Sharlto Copley who’s a Blomkamp mainstay, gets the mannerisms of Chappie just right. He doesn’t put on an actual robot suit (it’s more complicated than that) but his voice is perfect as are his jerky, protracted movements. In the case of Sigourney Weaver, well her performance was probably the low point. It seemed like it was totally phoned in. She will always be a legend in my book but her CEO (Michelle Bradley) should have been more important than was advertised. Ripley doesn’t register so much as a blimp. As for Hugh Jackman, well he’s an interesting choice to play the heavy. He does an adequate job channeling a jealous, sniveling rat in the Tetravaal corporation. Oh and he rocks the mullet (as well as multiple sets of khaki pants). Finally, there’s Dev Patel who completely shines in his role. He brings sympathy and believability to Deon Wilson, Chappie’s quote unquote “maker”. And in truth, he’s been a busy boy lately (his other film The Second Marigold Hotel is currently in theaters as well).

    Out of the box casting choices aside, the ending to Chappie may be one of two reservations I have for not recommending it. This a complex affair but it concludes with the notion that humans are better off living forever as robots. With their consciences transferred from dying bodies to connected hunks of metal, it feels like Blomkamp wanted to tack something on without knowing that it might reek of desperation. I mean, the problem with science fiction movies these days is that every contingent has been done already. I don’t fault him entirely though because the journey to get to Chappie’s weary conclusion is almost worth it. The other reservation I have involves the undramatic rap music that accompanies the flick’s second act and the closing credits. It feels sort of muddled as does Chappie’s uneven attempts at humor (the teaching of Chappie by uncompromising thugs on how to talk like a bad ass and putting gold chains around his neck are prime examples).

    In conclusion, during the film’s opening half hour, the main protagonist proclaims, “this is a new kind of life form, a new step in evolution”. I don’t share the same sentiment with Neill Blomkamp’s latest (filmwise) but it feels like something he’s always wanted to make, a pet project if you will. Result: two and a half stars.

    Of note: the workplace environment at the weapons manufacturer Tetravaal, is comprised of cubicles like in 1999’s Office Space. I snickered a bit. I mean you have Patel and Jackman’s characters sitting at their desks near a bunch of other people who apparently don’t do any work for the company. They’re just there next to computers, like props if you will. I figured Patel and Jackman would be out in the testing field or I guess, the war rooms (which for most of the time, they aren’t). Oh and if you take in a viewing of Chappie, get ready to be introduced to a new word. That word would be f**kmother (said over and over again).

  • Neill Blomkamp has made the same movie over and over again and Chappie, his latest, is an attempt at funneling all the working elements of his previous films into a singular effort. Chappie is set in near-future Johannesburg, whose police force has recently began to utilise a local weapons manufacturer’s “Scout” droids which are designed by Deon Wilson (Dev Patel). When one Scout is decommissioned Deon decides to test his new artificial intelligence software on the bot but both are kidnapped by a gang comprising of America (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and fictionalised members of Die Antwoord, Yo-landi and Ninja. Together, they bring the titular character to life, a sentient robot, who’s child-like nature results in it being manipulated by the gang, but who’s weaponised being leads to it being a target.

    Chappie shares much more with Blomkamp’s former films than just cast and crew. The location and some of the production design remains unchanged from District 9, Elysium, Halo:Landfall and Alive in Joburg, as do much of the photo-realistic special effects. Chappie shares aspects of it’s beginning and ending with that of District 9, as both begin with documentary-style world building and end on a non-human character accepting his fate as a fugitive. There’s also the morally bankrupt corporation (headed by a nearly absent Sigourney Weaver) which employs a dangerously unhinged military psychopath (Hugh Jackman) exactly as there was in both District 9 and Elysium (Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copely). Trent Opaloch returns as Director of Photography, and again uses combination of hand-held, helicopter documentary-style shots, gorgeous slow-motion photography and environments awash with browns and greys to marvelous effect, as he did on both District 9 and Elysium.

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  • Neil Blomkamp burst onto the scene in 2009 with the highly ambitious and groundbreaking District 9, it was a breath of fresh air to the Sci-Fi genre, a truly original piece of work. His second film, Elysium was a middling effort, despite being uneven and flawed it proved to be highly entertaining for the most part. His latest film, Chappie however is perhaps the most worrying sign of the writer/ director’s fall to M. Night Shyamalan territory.

    Written by Blomkamp and his wife Terri Tatchell, and directed by Blomkamp, Chappie follows the story of a near future when crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force. However, when a police droid is stolen by a gang of violent thugs who give him new programming he becomes the first to think for himself and must decide what he wants to become. Starring; Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver, Chappie is a terrible and hugely disappointing effort from Neil Blomkamp that fails to justify it’s existence. Chappie falls short on a number of areas, for one thing, the script is badly written, the story which has an intriguing premise eventually proves to be a knock-off of vastly superior Sci-Fi films like; RoboCop, WALL-E, Artificial Intelligence, Short Circuit and the ideas that Blomkamp wants to explore fail to come into fruition. The performances do not come together, Hugh Jackman is wasted as the antagonist, as is Sigourney Weaver in a major supporting role, Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel offers a run-of-the-mill we’ve seen him do before, probably in Slumdog Millionaire.

    Furthermore, Blomkamp’s idea to give the South African rap-rave group of Der Antwoord (Ninja and Yolandi Visser) major roles in the movie does not pay off rather their performances drag down the film. The film suffers from inconsistent tonal shifts and fails to sell itself as a heart-warming robot story, rather feels mawkish and over-sentimental. The visuals are adequate to say the least and Sharlto Copley does a satisfactory job of bringing Chappie to life through his voice and motion-capture work. The action sequences provide some flare even if they add little to the story.

    In conclusion, Chappie is easily the weakest work of Blomkamp’s short career. The otherwise talented cast is wasted, the script is dreadful, the ideas are not properly explored. The film lacks originality and many of the films elements feel ripped-off from superior Sci-Fi films, what’s even worrying is that this is the guy who is going to handle the Alien franchise.

    Final Score: 3.0/10

    -Khalid Rafi

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  • Let us please terminate all discussions of Neill Blomkamp taking on the Alien franchise. Blomkamp made a name for himself with the ingenious District 9, a science fiction satire about aliens abandoned in the slums of Johannesburg. It felt fresh and inventive, and one could not help but admire its little-engine-that-could pluck. His follow-up Elysium, headlined by Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, was an underwhelming effort, its lofty ambitions sorely undermatched by its execution. His third and latest feature Chappie is a strong indication that Blomkamp may be a limited talent.

    Directors, even visionaries, are bound by the limitations of their creativity. Even those whose imaginations impress one as unrestricted are working within set goalposts. The trick is how one deals with and overcomes those restrictions. Blomkamp possesses many shortcomings, not the least of which is a predilection for excess when streamlining would be the wiser option. There is simply too much going on in Chappie, and what works becomes buried under so much extraneous nonsense.

    The CNN news report that opens the film quickly briefs audiences that crime and corruption have decreased in danger-ridden Johannesburg thanks to a robotic police force designed and manufactured by the robotics firm Tetra Vaal. Its CEO Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) functions like an understanding but stern maternal figure to her two lead developers, who jockey for her attention and funding. On one side, there is Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), a former soldier and weapons developer who argues his Moose soldiers, controlled by actual human beings wearing neural helmets, are the better thinking, more moral fighters. On the other side, there is Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), whose Scout soldiers are heavily popular with the local police force. He wants to evolve his robots into machines that can genuinely think and feel.

    Deon gets the chance to run his advanced artificial intelligence program on a heavily-damaged robot earmarked for demolition. Named Chappie (voiced by Blompkamp’s frequent leading man Sharlto Copley), the droid is like an impressionable child, soaking up knowledge at an alarming rate. For a brief shining moment, Chappie resembles a Kramer vs Kramer for the technological age as Chappie is caught in a tug of war between his creator Deon and his adopted family, a trio of hood rats who kidnapped Deon and forced him to rebuild the rejected bot so they could use it as their own killing machine.

    Deon is dismayed at Chappie aping the trio’s gangster swagger and filthy language; he makes Chappie promise not to get involved in any criminal activities. The promise is problematic for the trio’s leader Ninja, who is irritated that Chappie is learning how to paint and play with dolls instead of learning how to shoot. One of the film’s best sequences has Ninja abandoning Chappie in one of the city’s rougher sections, resulting in a group of young hooligans throwing stones and setting him on fire. Chappie then finds himself in the clutches of Vincent, who inflicts greater injury. Chappie manages to escape, returning to the comforting arms of his mommy Yo-Landi, who can offer little explanation on why people would be so cruel to him.

    The nature versus nurture aspect is already a solid and rich narrative thread, but then Blomkamp weighs it down with gangsters going after Ninja so he can return their millions, and Vincent’s maneuverings to destroy Chappie and the rest of the Scouts in order to install his Moose robots in their place. The mulleted Jackman is like an aggressive steroid come to life. He is arguably the most enjoyable actor in this mess, but his character is one of many that could have easily been jettisoned. In fact, all of them could have been binned. Blomkamp and co-screenwriter Terri Tatchell are capable of working in the broadest of strokes, and almost make it impossible for their actors to give proper performances. Jackman circumvents this by sheer force of his charisma. Weaver does as well, inserting little touches like Michelle grabbing her coat and purse before fleeing a perilous situation, a gesture that says a lot about the character. Patel barely hangs on whilst Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser of the South African rap-rave Die Antwoord let their outlandish personas do the work, though Yo-Landi lends a surprising emotionalism to her role.

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  • What do you mean, “reprogram him”?
    Don’t play dumb! You know exactly what we mean.
    Turn that robot into the illest gangsta on the block.

    The number of robots used in a science fiction is uncountable. Some of them can easily be classified under the label “A sad, technical case”. R2D2 in “Star Wars” was a pathetic robot most of the time. Twiki from “Buck Rogers” was a helpless phenomenon. David from “AI” was a terribly sad cyborg with the sole desire to become a real boy. Even Ava in “Ex Machina” was a sad piece of electronics searching for freedom. But “Chappie” (so called because allegedly he was “a happy chappie”) easily beats them all when it comes to pettiness. I almost fell sorry for him. For the first time the gloomy existence of a robot was displayed. Doom and gloom all over the place. Chappie the outcast who began his career as an intervention robot to protect the civilian population against the ever rising crime, and whose final destination became the scrap heap after another impact of an explosive. And he ends up as a helpless artificially intelligent robot in the midst of a group of gangsters who start educating this childlike electronic device to become a gangsta. Just so he can help out in repaying a debt.

    The last year there were quite some movies about artificial intelligence and the emergence of a consciousness in mechanical and electronic creations. “The Machine”, “Automata” and “Ex Machina” are recent films using this main theme. The ability to transfer one’s consciousness to a storage medium or an operating system such as in “Transcendence” is the other part which is subject to speculation. That’s the leitmotiv throughout this cyberpunk story of Neill Blomkamp, the creative director from South Africa who tried to convey a socially critical message in “Elysium”. Personally, I thought “Elysium” was a pretty good movie (I haven’t seen “District 9” though). To quote myself : “A first-rate SF with extremely titillating images with a social message and mixed with a touching theme that calls for a happy ending. “. Obviously I was looking forward to “Chappie”.

    Visually it looks pretty decent. “Chappie” itself is one elaborated robot. Just look at the eyes formed by small pixel-like animations on two screens. A kind of extended “Short Circuit” robot, but without caterpillar tracks. No human appearance, but ultimately there are some kind of human feelings inside that metal body. Unfortunately, the similarity to the story of “Robocop” is a little bit too obvious. The rivalry between Deon (Dev “Slumdog Millionaire” Patel) and Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) was also used in Verhoeven’s film. Deon is the designer of the successful robots like Chappie. And Vincent is trying (in a somewhat violent way) to impose his design called “Moose”, a machine controlled by a human operator. The similarities between the “Moose” and the ED-209 are striking. The inevitable clash is more realistic, looks flashier and more action-packed than in “Robocop”, which is again a plus.

    There’s one thing that leaves a lot to be desired. The interpretations. Dev Patel was an excellent choice for the naive, nerdy Deon. But Jackman looked more like a Michael Dundee, with his khaki shorts, participating in an “Indiana Jones” movie. The only thing missing was a fat cigar in his mouth. Him being the developer of such a sophisticated technology, seemed utterly impossible. Sigourney Weaver also played a meaningless small role as Michelle Bradley, the hard-hitting CEO of Tetra Vaal, who I’m sure has an impeccable career path, but still sweeps aside Deon’s proposal to install an update so the existing robots could grow a consciousness. As CEO, I would at least form a work-group to research that proposal. And then we have the gang of criminals. Probably I’ll sound old fashioned now, but I’d never heard of the South African rap group “Die Antwoord”. They are probably excellent when it’s about rapping. The acting part though was something else. But despite their lack of experience and the amateurish look, they did a fine job as educators for Chappie and as low-skilled rabble that pushes the poor robot on the wrong track.

    In hindsight this was an entertaining film where action and brutal violence was mixed with touching and even humorous passages. Although the latter actually is pure laughing at “Chappie”. Aside from “Chappie” being composed of electronic and mechanical components, the reactions and the course of action still looks human. A pathetic robot in the hands of a few half-idiots whose own education failed. And despite the deep philosophical approach and serious themes, this film was not a boring affair full of intricate digressions. A trashy cyber spectacle with flashy action, a comfortable pace and fine SE’s which make Chappie’s look lifelike and after a while you actually forget you’re watching at a computer animation.

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  • (Rating: ☆ out of 4)

    This film is not recommended.

    In brief: Chappie is crappy.

    GRADE: D+

    To put it mildly, Chappie is horrible, surely one of the worst films of the year, or any year for that matter. With all the talent assembled both behind and on the screen, the movie is a major disappointment coming from such a creative filmmaker like Neill Blomkamp.

    Mr. Blomkamp made a stunning debut with the classic sci-fi fantasy District 9, then going on to make the less-than-sterling Elysium. Sadly, he continues this downward slide with his weakest film yet. Let’s hope he sidesteps the M. Night Shyamalan curse. His third film, Chappie, still reigns in the sci-fi genre, but it lacks cohesiveness and logic. The characters are such stereotypes (the nerdy genius, the corrupt rival, the put-upon hero, the one-dimensional evil bad guys, etc.) and its story is just so dumb.

    The screenplay takes an interesting premise about A.I. prototypes gone amok (yet another cliche) and human beings tampering with science. But it also adds the most unlikeable characters ever to disgrace the screen. No one is worth rooting for. Even Chappie becomes a buffoon. The plot has the South African government successfully employing an army of robots to maintain law and order. Apparently there are two types of Robo-Cops: one created by engineer Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) and the other by the increasingly unhinged and jealous Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), who wants to sabotage Wilson’s creations, which includes Chappie. However, Chappie is a slightly different model, a tin man with a brain and a heart, one that can show human emotions. Now that is all fine and dandy a narrative.

    Until the narrative takes the wrong detour…both Deon and Chappie are kidnapped by a crew of unappealing punk lowlife who seem like rejects from the Mad Max franchise. They are named Ninja, Yo-Landi, and Amerika and it hard to say who is the most annoying. Most of their line delivery and dialog is unintelligible, with thick South African ascents, and their behavior is even more hard to understand. (Wisely, the evil rival gang leader, Hippo (Brandon Auret), has subtitles explaining his rants, unless one becomes tired of hearing them, like me.) This all leads to the gangs trying to lead Chappie into a life of crime. (They even give his some gold bling to hang around his neck and teach him to rap and talk gangsta-style.) Deon, tries to control him (“I am your maker!”, he repeatedly states) but never rescues him with his captors, and Vincent plays bad-old Snidely Whiplash in his obsessive need to kill our hero.

    The actors are uniformly awful, with Mr. Jackman giving his worst performance in decades. The hammy Sharlto Copley plays Chappie and he has become a CGI effect here, which is a vast improvement from his live action roles. Sadly, his campy spirit has been channeled into Jose Pablo Cantillo’s performance as the menacing gang leader. Ninja as Ninja and Yo-Landi as Yo-Landi are originally from a rap band and should keep their night gigs. Sigorney Weaver, in a small role as the greedy CEO of the company, should have asked for an even smaller one. At least, Dev Patel has stopped overdoing the comic shtick and finally started acting again in a movie.

    The script by the director and his previous collaborator Terri Tatchell, is inane and should have never been green-lighted. Characters act illogically and the plot meanders. Too much time is spent on the kidnappers (period!) and their training techniques. While some of the action sequences are well staged and the climactic showdown does have some excitement, getting there is quite a chore, or snore.

    There are many silly moments in this film, but none more blatantly laughable as when Chappie severely beats up one of his enemies and then scolds him saying, “You are a very, very, bad man!” No, Chappie, you stand corrected. You are a very, very bad movie! Avoid this droid!

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