People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different. In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all. Read on!
I was ready to disown director Neill Blomkamp after the abysmal Elysium. After seeing the trailers for his new film Chappie, seemingly about a sensitive robot who learns to gang-bang, I’m ready to start weaning his name out of the human language.
You know, Chappie could’ve just been a film about a rogue, sentient robot named Chappie and the near-braindead gangsters who teach him how to act tough, shoot guns and tear doors off cars and it would’ve been pretty watchable. Instead, to my great surprise, Neill Blomkamp is able to inject the story of, you know, Chappie with a strong message, a beating heart, and some epic bits of robot-on-robot action and to erase my fears about his future output in the process. Chappie, if the setting was different, and the main character not a ebonics-spouting South African cop-robot, could be a film that shows the danger of our upbringings. Chappie, one more time, is a cop-robot set for destruction when his “Maker” (Dev Patel) imbues him with artificial intelligence, just prior to being robbed and kidnapped by two bad haircut sporting South African thugs (Yolandi and Ninja from Die Antwoord basically playing fantastical versions of themselves). The rest of the film bounces back and forth between the philosophical struggle of how to teach a robotic baby how to live, Hugh Jackman (with the fucking worst haircut of all time) trying to sabotage the robo-baby, and Chappie (a marvel of computer graphics) learning how to c-walk. It really could be an awful film but Blomkamp shows the chops that made District 9 so remarkable, and makes a film that’s ostensibly about just how horrible human beings can be. The strongest moments of the film are Chappie learning to be relatively human. His emotional output (as voiced by Sharlito Copley) grows realistically and by the time he’s got a gold necklaces and a gat and he’s robbing an armored truck, you can believe that he’s ended up there. You can believe that the selfish interests of others have forced this blob of moldable robot clay into a sort of thugged-out criminal. It doesn’t all work out. Dev Patel’s character seems overly tacked on, and his presence in every scene takes away from the gangster Chappie story. Sigourney Weaver is barely there and when she is she’s stiff and awkward. And again, Hugh Jackman (though I like his villainous role) has the worst hair of all time. That said, Chappie was a pleasant surprise, Short Circuit with a more skilled director behind the wheel.
Putting Die Antwoord into your film requires that they just get to play themselves. And that they wear their own merchandise and the soundtrack only consists of their songs. Hell, with a few cuts, this just could be one long Die Antwoord video.