Review: CHAPPiE is Amazing if it Resonates with You
Screenwriter Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
Principal Cast: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo, and Sigourney Weaver
Summary: In the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. 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. — via IMDB
Back in 2009 unknown director Neill Blomkamp exploded onto the movie scene with District 9. The movie was a huge hit with not only audiences but critics as well, who hailed it as one of the best sci fi movies of the recent generation. It got an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and people loved the combination of stark, ultra violent and metaphoric messages.. Blomkamp followed it up with Elysium in 2013 which was okay. I would say that if Elysium had been made by anyone else it would be considered a masterpiece, but considering what Blomkamp was trying to follow up it wasn’t surprising that he wasn’t able to top his first work. Now he’s back with CHAPPiE to see if he can elevate himself to District 9’s level.
CHAPPiE has some serious issues and is not a movie for everyone, but if it resonates with you it’s going to resonate strong which will be enough for you to hand wave the flaws.
There are a lot of people that are probably not going to like CHAPPiE, and I can understand why. There are plenty of things wrong with this movie, such as the fact that it is 100 percent sincere all the time and it can make the tone of things feel a little disjointed. I had a very hard time relating to any of the main cast, aside from Dev Patel’s Deon Wilson. Hugh Jackman is supposed to be our villain, but his motives never quite meshed for me. Sigourney Weaver is here mostly as a cameo and she gets nearly no screentime. Two of the three gangsters that are trying to control CHAPPiE are played by a real music group and there were several times I wanted to tell them to dial it back a bit. The story also feels like it’s lacking the clear messages that District 9 and Elysium both had.
However, despite all of those issues, I really enjoyed Chappie. I think most of that comes down to Chappie himself played by motion capture work from Sharlto Copley. The movie makes it very clear that CHAPPiE is a child adapting to the world around him and some of the best laughs in the movie come from CHAPPiE imitating his gangster caretakers. By the end of the movie you could see the little ticks that Chappie has picked up from those around him. The kids that manage to sneak into this movie are going to want CHAPPiE action figures as he is also very well designed. The movie neatly avoids the uncanny valley, the moment when something is trying to look human but is just a little bit off, by making sure that CHAPPiE has no human facial features.
The violence is also pretty dialed back considering people were getting flash liquefied in previous Blomkamp production. If the movie dropped all of the violence, somehow made the gangsters something more family friendly and eased up on the swearing CHAPPiE could be a family film. This is also the second movie I’ve seen Dev Patel in this week and he’s easily my favorite part of this movie. His wide eyed sincerity when it comes to CHAPPiE matches how sincere CHAPPiE is about everything in the world.
CHAPPiE is not the movie that brings Blomkamp back to the level of District 9, but that doesn’t stop it from being extremely endearing. There are some great performance and a very solid ending. There were problems but I fell into the camp that the things I liked carried much more weight than the things I didn’t. A Neill Blomkamp production is always going to be something unique and I recommend you check this one out.