Chappie is the third film from director Neill Blomkamp, who's last two films were District 9 and Elysium, the first of which was universally adored. The second of which, surprisingly, received more of a mixed reaction, although me personally, really enjoyed it. With Chappie, Blomkamp takes us back to the not-so-distant future, a future where a robotic police force have been put into full effect. Their designer, Deon (Dev Patel), has secretly been working on a robot that can think by itself. A robot that can come up with its own decisions, live its own life and have opinions on things. This robot is Chappie (Sharlto Coopley), But after a car hijacking, Chappie is taken in by a group of thugs who try to train Chappie to pull off a heist for them.
I was one of the few people looking forward to Chappie, and this came as an even bigger surprise than the fact that a lot of people weren't fans of Elysium. The film is based on a 1 minute short film Blomkamp made back in 2004. It's a very basic short film, but it's an enjoyable one, if you could even call it a short film. It's more like a concept he came up with, portrayed as a fake advertisement. Then the reviews started to come out, and once again, there was a lot more negativity than I thought, but like I do with every movie, I went in open minded. I went in hoping for the best. And what did I get? A very underrated movie.
I'll begin by discussing the actual character of Chappie. He's loveable. Chappie, essentially, is a child, and he's described as such multiple times in the first half an hour. When he's created, it is to him, what it is to a baby. They're new to the world. They don't know anything, but they're curious. We then follow Chappie as he attempts to interact with other people, learn new things and unfortunately, get hunted down by Hugh Jackman's character, who's mullet is seriously the star of the show.
Watching Chappie grow and evolve is sure to put a smile of your face, or at least it did mine. He's a funny, relatable and endearing character to follow, and when things get really bad for him, or he's looked down upon by the world around him, it's really upsetting to watch. He's got the design of a police robot, but the mind of a child, and so when confronted with uncomfortable situations, his reaction is almost too realistic. It's unsettling to watch. You want Chappie to do good and turn out okay, but you doubt it, especially with the over-looming presence of his low battery life.
Neill Blomkamp has really made a name for himself when it comes to sci-fi, not just because of his heart pounding action sequences and breathtaking visual effects, but because of the messages about society that he's constantly evoking in his films. Chappie is no exception, except here, it makes its presence more obvious, whereas Elysium and District 9 were rather subtle and made you think more. Chappie's messages are really hammered in. They're in your face and they're obvious, but they're effective nonetheless.
That isn't the only problem with the script either. Co-written by Terri Tatchell and Blomkamp himself, who's last collaboration was on District 9, the script works really well, for the most part anyway. It's intriguing, eye opening and ambitious. Then they put in lines like "a frog in a sock" that made me pull back and leave the scene for a moment. However, it's Chappie's lines that soar, not just because of the lovableness of everything he says, but because you can really tell that the writers care about the character they're creating. And when they're happy with him, we're happy with him.
The biggest complaint I keep hearing about this movie is the character of Ninja (played by a guy who's name is actually Ninja. Or, at least, his current name is.), a character who Chappie looks up to as a father. I hear so many complaints about how he's a dick and he's unlikeable and so on, but to all those people complaining, I think you missed the point of this movie, which I find very surprising seeings as how hard they hammered the message in. He's meant to be a dick, he's meant to be unlikeable. He's a character we're not supposed to be in love with and because of that, I think the movie did a fine job with his character.
My only other complaint with this film is the ending. The first 100 minutes of Chappie were great. They're nothing mind-blowing, but they're fun and they're entertaining. Then we get to the last twenty minutes and not only do things get a bit unbelievable, but they go overboard. There's sci-fi and then there's too much sci-fi, and as a big sci-fi fan, I'm surprised to say that they overdid the sci-fi in the finale. It's a stupid ending to what could have been a great movie.
To sum up, Chappie doesn't quite live up to the standards of District 9 or Elysium, but as a film of its own, Chappie works well. It's engaging, eye opening, loveable and exciting, even with the let down of an ending and occasionally lacklustre writing.
3 1/2 Stars