Well wasn’t this a pleasant surprise? I was expecting to post 12-1 of my Top 25 Favorite Movies of All Time, but with my girlfriend’s surprise visit we went to see the latest Neill Blomkamp movie Chappie and so I will be reviewing it today instead. Look for 12-1 of my Top 25 Favorite Movies of All Time on Tuesday, a new episode of The Nerdiest Talk Show on Earth Saturday, and a video game for Retro Gaming Month on Sunday. With all of the site updates out of the way, let’s talk about Chappie.
I have to say that this was not what I was expecting. Granted, I should have expected such a dark tale from the likes of Blomkamp, but I was expecting a somewhat family oriented adventure. Instead what we got was a handful of strong homages to Robocop and Natural Born Killers mixed in with a story of nature vs. nurture. Very interesting if somewhat unexpected. I do have to say that I feel like Chappie is going to go the way of Elysium as the years go on… It is going to be a very underrated movie that will be completely overshadowed by Blomkamp’s magnum opus, District 9.
Set in the near future, Johannesburg South Africa has recently completely automated their police force with a new invention from the Tetravaal Military Company known as Scouts. The Scouts are very effective in ridding Johannesburg of its crime population and the success of the scouts has sparked demand in countries like the United States, China, and North Korea. The man who created the scouts, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) is not settled with his success on the scouts and wishes to create true artificial intelligence so that the scouts can learn and comprehend. After a red bull induced all night bender, Deon is able to create the AI and steals the shell of a scout that was commissioned to be destroyed in order to upload the AI to its mainframe.
Meanwhile in the city a collection of gangsters that is ripped straight out of Natural Born Killers and The Devil’s Rejects Ninja (Ninja), Yolandi (Yolandi Vissier), and Yankie (Jose Pablo Cantillo) are in heavy debt to a powerful gangster known as Hippo (Brandon Auret). They owe Hippo 20 million rand and need to deliver it to him by the end of the week or he will kill all of them. They kidnap Deon just after he stole the Scout in order to force him to shut down the scouts. He does not comply but does download the AI into the Scout, thus creating Chappie (Sharlto Copley). Ninja forces Deon to leave Chappie with them so that Ninja can use Chappie in the heist even though Chappie is clearly has the current capacity of a child. Deon and Yolandi attempt to care for Chappie and raise him while Ninja and Yankie attempt to turn him into a killing machines to be used for their purposes.
To add onto the problems, Deon’s fellow employee Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) is jealous of Deon’s success and the success of the scouts which have put a damper on his project the Moose… Which is totally not Ed 2.0 from RoboCop. Vincent is on a quest to eliminate the scouts from existence, thus throwing Johannesburg into complete chaos in order to implement his robotics to gain the fame and fortune that comes with it. So that is just the ‘basic’ plot of Chappie.
The core of this movie is the idea of nature vs. nurture and can a person truly be good on the inside or is he truly a product of his upbringing. The concept of Chappie being raised in a broken household and the symbolism that each of the characters play is instrumental in Chappie’s development and leads him to make the decisions that he ultimately makes.
Chappie is ultimately a good ‘person’. He acts in good faith and has the most honorable intentions. But it is Ninja and Yankie who corrupt him into the life of crime that he takes and is powerful symbolism of the problems facing many troubled youths in today’s societies. I like the message they were going for and feel that they did an excellent job in portraying it in a very real and painstaking way.
The Neill Blomkamp Blend of Futuristic Science Fiction and Gritty Realism
Unlike other critics who have become somewhat jaded by Blomkamp’s style, I thoroughly enjoy the concepts that he comes up with. He uses futuristic science fiction like aliens, ships, robotics, and so forth and integrates them into a very real and very gritty world. District 9 is a painful look into segregation as well as the Apartheid Era in South African history. Elysium took on the problems of racism and could be defined as a conflict sociologists wet dream with the concept of the people on the earth having to suffer for the people in Elysium.
Then we have a movie like Chappie that features cool futuristic fighting machines. It takes a child like mind in Chappie and shows how a hard life can transform someone into something so grim and so depressing. It is a very well told message and in that traditional Blomkamp style.
Just Like all of Blomkamp’s Movies it is Set in South Africa
I love this about Blomkamp’s movies. I love the fact that they are set in South Africa and not the United States. It is interesting to see mainstream movies that do not have to be set in the United States. They use South African currency, they deal with South African problems, Hugh Jackman’s character is playing with a rugby ball and not and American football, and the feel of the movie is that it is South African. It pleases me that a film director from other countries does not feel the need to Americanize its movie just to appease some United States audience.
I put it as a ‘meh’ instead of a ‘pro’ because I do not think it affects the movie itself, it is just a cool add on that makes me smile and I felt the need to bring it up in this review.
This will include spoilers so if you read ahead and get pissy, sucks to suck for you. This movie has some glaring plot holes and questionable decisions that will just drive you absolutely insane. Certain moments that you are just supposed to hand wave away as essential to the plot.
First off the Vincent character is always seen carrying a handgun with him in an office. That is fine, it is a little weird but the guy is former military and I can see someone like him wanting to prove that his cock really isn’t a small as everyone would like to think it is just him trying to establish his dominance. But during the movie while Deon is sitting at his desk, Vincent slams his head on the desk in front of an entire office and holds a gun to his face. To which he then pulls the trigger and dry fires. He then just throws his hands up and says, nothing more than a prank. Not only is that grounds for being fired, that is grounds for being arrested for assault and attempted murder! Jesus Christ! You can’t just hand wave that away as a joke. This guy just assaulted one of the most well known people in the company and held a gun to his face. Nobody thinks this isn’t weird or maybe something that they need to inform the police department with whom they have a direct line to.
Even later in the movie when Deon learns that Vincent shut down the scouts and is causing all the hell in the town to break loose, he finds it out in a room full of people and calls him out on it. Does Deon tell to everyone in the room and his boss who is in the next room, ‘HEY! This guy shut down the scouts! Here I have proof on my laptop! If you were to go to the security cameras I’m sure you will get more evidence! This guy fucked up!’ Nope, he instead fills his fan full of guns and drives to Chappie, giving Vincent plenty of time to turn on his beloved Moose Program and set up the third act that would not at all happen if Deon had just stopped him in the office.
Then we move further into the third act where Deon is shot and Chappie has the bright idea to transfer his consciousness into another robot. I mean you could do that… Or just go to the hospital. He got shot in the abdomen which yes will kill you…. Eventually. But it is only one clean shot through the abdomen, any hospital can treat that and Deon will be fine and not a robot. Hell it isn’t even like they are pressed for time, they take their sweet time to get the guy back to Tetravaal and change his consciousness to the test robot. This doesn’t make sense and isn’t even brought up. I guess we should just assume that hospitals do not exist in Johannesburg.
This movie has glaring plot holes and questionable decision making that it is hard to even miss. For a guy whose movies are known for thought provoking and intelligent design, I expected much more from Chappie.
Is this one of Neill Blomkamp’s greatest movies? No. It is in all truth the poorest when compared to Elysium and District 9. Is it still a good movie? Yes I think so. There are some huge plot points in the movie that will make you want to slap your head in anger, but overall the story is there and it is told in that Blomkamp style that I am a sucker for.
Overall Chappie will be a forgotten movie of 2015 and not much will be heard of it from now on. But it is still worth at least one watch.
Final Score 3/5
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