The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Chappie | Sharlto Copley, Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Brandon Auret, Jose Pablo Cantillo | Review

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2sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD Judy Thorburn

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2lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD

 

Chappie

South African director Neill Blomkamp gained attention as a promising filmmaker with his first feature film, 'District 9', which was one of the best films of 2009. Four years later, he followed up with the disappointing 'Elysium. Now, he is back with his third scifi fantasy, cowritten with wife Terri Tatchell (with whom he also collaborated on “District 9”) that is also a clunker, borrowing elements from 'Short Circuit', 'Robocop' and 'A.I.', to name a few.

It is one thing having an intriguing idea but it means nothing if you can't follow through with a good, cohesive execution. Unfortunately, 'Chappie' goes way off track and winds up being a muddled mess.

The story is set in Johannesburg in the near future. As a way to fight rising crime, authorities have deployed the world's first robotic police force called Scouts, manufactured by Tetra Vaal Robotics, a weapons company run by Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver, in an under developed role). When one of the robots, #022, goes down during a raid and is marked for demolition, his lead designer Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) steals the rabbit eared robot and installs it with his ultimate creation, the world's first artificial intelligence program that is fully conscious and can read, appreciate art, think and talk for itself. Soon after, Devon and his robot are abducted by some low life criminals, the heavily tattooed Ninja and the outrageously coiffed Yolandi Vi$$er (of South African rap group Die Antwoord) who want to train the robot so they can pull off a mega heist to pay off a vicious drug lord, Hippo (Brandon Auret).

Once activated, the robot displays innocent, childlike behavior and is left in the hands of Ninja and Yolandi and their cohort in crime, Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo). Yolandi's nurturing, maternal instincts kick in and names the naive android Chappie, who in turn bonds with his surrogate parents and calls her Mommy, and Ninja, Daddy. Before you know it, Chappie (voiced by Sharlto Copley, in a motion captured performance) begins imitating their hip hop slang, is fitted with tacky gold necklaces, taught how to shoot a gun, and becomes their powerful accomplice in violent car jackings.

Meanwhile back at Tetra Vaal, Devon's jealous, disgruntled rival robot developer, Vincent Moore (a pyschotic, one note Hugh Jackman), whose funding was cut for his large scale robot named Moose, comes up with a devious plan to shut down all the Scouts resulting in an outbreak of crime and mayhem so that he would be able to put his human controlled, giant creation into action.

Caught in the middle of all this is Chappie, who is forced to learn the harsh realities of the terrible things humans are capable of. It is hard not to sympathize with the innocent robot who is a victim of a scenario he had no part in creating. Capable of thinking on his own he becomes aware that, like humans, he has a limited lifespan, and has to decide what is right and wrong as he and Devon, his well intentioned “maker” are separated and then reunited.

Like his previous films, Blomkamp attempts to make a thought provoking, social commentary about a future dystopian society and its victimized outcasts. However, the message here gets lost in an eye rolling narrative that incorporates an awkward blend of humor, sentimentality, cruelty and violence leading up to the predictable, action packed showdown between opposing forces.

The one thing Blomkamp does ace in his films are the spectacular, seamless CGI effects. If only the rest of the film lived up that excellence. But, no. Although the story centers on a robot with artificial intelligence, what the audience gets is an artificial film that lacks intelligence. I am sorry to say, but a more apt title would be RoboCrap.

A footnote. Blomkamp is scheduled to direct the new “Alien” film for Fox nearly 20 years after the series, starring Sigourney Weaver, concluded.
I am more than interested in seeing how he handles the material and if it lives up to the high expectations.

 

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