When it comes to Neil Blomkamp, the one constant that I’ve heard from plenty of people is that Elysium turned them off about him as a filmmaker. Because of that, it’s easy to see why much of the excitement that came with his name after District 9 has dissipated some. Well, here to restore his name is Chappie, a science fiction flick that may have the potential to either rebuild his fan base or put a permanent end to the hype that he built up not all that long ago.
Wanting to take to take life to a level that mankind has never seen before, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) has designs on making artificial intelligence that’s even smarter than humans. He wants to turn this into something with not only the normal functions of the various kinds of technology that we lord over, but a being of sorts that has the ability to think and feel for itself. That’s why he invented a robot the comes to be known as Chappie (Sharlto Copley).
Seeing the power that Chappie has will attract people who want to learn about creating such an incredible life form, but unfortunately, it will also intrigue the most vile group of people enticed by all of the features that they can use to their advantage. Deon knows that if his latest creation falls into the wrong hands, a once brilliant idea could spell trouble for the world if he loses control of what he’s built.
To put it bluntly, Chappie isn’t the action movie that I thought it was going to be. As a matter of fact, there isn’t even that much action throughout most of the film’s nearly two hours of running time. When it does make its appearances, the violence that’s included is vicious, entertaining and worth your while if that’s one of the reasons why you’re showing up. The only issue that I have with it is that there isn’t more of it for us viewers to relish in.
With the action not really being a strong constant here, you’ll come to discover that this feature is being carried by a story surrounding the development of Chappie himself. In handling this, they literally treat the robot as if it’s a child being brought up by adults that aren’t exactly responsible. This allows the film to play into all of the messages that Neil Blomkamp wants to place the spotlight on.
Continuing Blomkamp’s focus on social themes, Chappie highlights a tug of war between adults trying to vie for the affection and attention of the robot who’s been programmed to essentially be a human. On one end you have the man who created him, while on the other, you have a law breaking street gang who wants to obtain riches the illegal way. Over time, this plays out like a man trying to remain in the life of his child while the people with physical custody aren’t making it too easy for him.
As a character, Chappie has the kind of innocence one would normally see in a child while living in a world filled with violence and maniacal adults with manipulative tendencies in some instances. This is one facet that gives the film some redeeming qualities. Because of this, it’s difficult to only see this as a dark film even though there tons of moral conundrums being presented to us.
Much of what’s included in Chappie, is about how people manipulate kids and lead them astray. Some of this is actually fun to watch, because of some of the characters that play a large part in these periods during the film. Watching Chappie’s growth from something similar to an infant into an adolescent of sorts is strange yet intriguing.
While I don’t believe it has the ability to bring many of Blomkamp’s fans back to where they were with him, I do believe that there is an audience for this. There’s nothing spectacular about Chappie, but it is a stable film about instability when greed and selfishness get in the way of doing the right thing. When speaking of it in general, it’s a respectable picture and nothing more.
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Jose Pablo Cantillo
Film Length: 114 minutes
Release Date: March 6, 2015
Distributor: Sony Pictures