PHOTOS COURTESY OF STEPHANIE BLOMKAMP
It is with pleasure that I report that the film idiotically titled Chappie has met my expectations. I expected a stupid plotline with weird plot twists and I got it. I expected to see a robot pretend to be a childlike human and I got it. I also expected to hate this movie just as I hated District 9 and I did.
Chappie is a tug-o-war story between the old, clunky robotics technology created by soldier-turned-weapons-engineer Vincent Moore (played by Hugh Jackman) and the new and improved robotics technology created by young engineer Deon Wilson (Dev Patel). Deon’s creation is basically a group of Robocops that lack human feeling called scouts. They are used in Johannesburg, South Africa, in place of a human police force.
At first, these scouts are working great and taking down crime rings and bad guys all over the city. Then, Deon decides that he wants to see what would happen if one of these mechanized police officers had a conscious and could think for itself. Naturally, a host of problems ensues as the humanized Robocop, Chappie, comes under the control of some local criminals.
The story clearly takes its cues from District 9: an alien force is integrated into human society and befriends a human. The human then becomes so acquainted with the alien force that it becomes one with the alien. The audience finds itself rooting more for the robot/alien, than the humans. And, like District 9, Chappie was written and directed by Neill Blomkamp (Terri Tatchell is Blomkamp’s writing partner). For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Hollywood machine continues to give Blomkamp money to produce this drivel.
Even though critics and audiences alike loved District 9, I loathed it. Likewise, Chappie is a terrible two-hour film (yes, a full two hours of my life that I will not get back) that makes absolutely no sense. The premise is good, but Blomkamp and Tatchell just can’t seem to do anything worthwhile with the story. That includes the weird South African “gangsters” (played by Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser, also known as actors whose stage names and character names are the same) and their token Mexican-American friend, Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo) who try to “talk Black.” This trio has obviously watched Scarface too many times. And, the offensive connotation that the two main villains in this film happen to be praying Catholics says something about the writers and their belief systems.
If Blomkamp was trying to stick with what he knows to make his latest film and his next paycheck, then he’s doing a fine job. Chappie tries very hard to be something that it’s not. And, after a while, the film just becomes quite sad.
Sigourney Weaver (as Michelle Bradley, head of Tetravaal, the weapons company that makes the scouts) and Jackman, with a bad haircut, appear to have been suckered into doing this film. Maybe they were lured to film in South Africa with the promise of working with an Oscar-nominated writer and director. They end up being a part of a ridiculous film that causes its audience to laugh at odd times.
Likewise for Sharlto Copley, who played the idiot that turned into an alien in District 9 and voices Chappie. Copley is no stranger to playing naïve characters who do really stupid things that cause them much heartache in the future. So Copley has lived up to my expectations.
Let’s face it, Chappie is the most oddball film I’ve seen since District 9. Despite my low expectations being met for Chappie, I would have much preferred seeing a film that was worth my time; something delightfully unexpected that didn’t involve the weirdest of the weird. If Blomkamp ever gets around to making a District 10, I hope it’s nothing like Chappie.