Big Screen :: Chappie

March 25th 2015


Chappie is the new movie from Neil Blomkamp, one of the only guys who seems to be able to get original science fiction movies made – with this, Elysium and District Nine.

In this case I suspect he has gotten a hold of some incriminating picture of studio executives or something, because somehow he’s convinced Sony Pictures to fund a hyper-violent film about a robot baby being raised by Die Antwoord. Sure, it stars Hugh Jackman, but only in a supporting role… and even then, Blomkamp has given him a truly awful mullet, hitched his too-tight shorts up over his hips and tucked in his polo shirt, almost as if he is daring the studio to use Jackman in advertising materials looking like Steve Irwin‘s dickhead cousin.

This is a movie about the world’s first artificial intelligence being put into a police robot in Johannesburg named Chappie. If you made a list of all the possible movies that you could make with that premise, I guarantee you would not come up with one.

yolandi chappie

Basically, the stars of this movie are Ninja and Yo-Landie from Die Antwoord playing some version of themselves. They have this terrible plan to use Chappie to somehow get around the robot police force… It’s not totally clear. This is a crazy choice because a) these guys look like total maniacs, and b) they are not actors. They don’t look comfortable in front of a camera, which isn’t helped by the fact that they’re playing often irritating, kind of horrible people.

How much mileage you get from this film is going to to depend on how well you can tolerate hanging out with these guys. For me, once I got past wondering when the story was going to start focusing on the movie’s stars, and I came to the startling realisation that Blomkamp was serious about building a film around these weirdos… I was kind of thrilled by the audacity of it.

The execution is certainly not flawless – as I said, these aren’t good actors – but it’s truly bizarre to watch them share the screen with Hugh Jackman in a big budget movie paid for by the Sony corporation. I feel like Blomkamp somehow got away with something… but I’m not sure what.

Chappie himself is a remarkable creation. I guess he is just CGI and puppets, but he feels like he is on set. It’s seamless.

He’s played by Sharlto Copley in a pretty awesome performance. Chappie is mentally a toddler for most of the movie, and Copley has a lot of fun with that. There are also some great action scenes scattered throughout.

When it comes down to it, Chappie doesn’t totally work. The plot is a mess, and Chappie seems to switch from being an infant to a super genius when the story demands it. But still, this is something bizarre and unique and kind of precious. It’s been almost universally panned, but who cares? I can’t help thinking there is something in this that people seem to be missing… I liked it quite a bit.


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