Neil Blomkamp - a name that is synonymous to good if not excellent R rated sci-fi infused with clever social commentary. After the interesting and promising debut of "District 9", "Elisium" followed with somewhat disappointing results but the element of intrigue was there. With "Chappie", it seems that Blomkamp was back into the game. "Chappie" contains a mix bag of ideas that at the end of the day, it does not know how to present them and what to do with them. From the heavy theme of self-aware A.I, to the definition of consciousnesses, "Chappie" moves unfortunately left and right without cohesion or dramatic purpose along with a sluggish pace.
Chappie: The main hero of the film unfortunately comes off as unlikable and annoying with no signs of actual intelligence. For a superior artificial intelligence creation, he sure feels like a failure. The fact that he is committing various illegal acts due to the influence of his "parents" (Die Antwoord) is not surprising but makes us care less about him per minute. When the final climax erupts, I actually forgot that I was watching a film about Chappie and more about the gangsters who are trying to put a big final score.
|Cool design - does not say much|
Cast: The cast is solid with Die Antwoord dominating the majority of the screentime even more than the "hero" and the whole film feels like an advertisement for the hip hop band. In a bizarre move, Die Antwoord portray futuristic gangster versions of themselves with lots of promotional material - music, clothes, etc - surrounding them. Usually music artists are kinda terrible in their film debuts but here I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised with their performance. They actually manage to have more characterization than "Chappie" himself. Hugh Jackman is clearly having a blast with his role as a jealous electrical engineer and it is such a shame that he does not get enough characterization as his motives are kinda understandable but when he goes full blown villain for the final act, it feels forced and bloated. Finally Sigourney Weaver is it in for like 2 minutes in a similar move of Jodie Foster's in Elisium. Word to the wise: Blomkamp there is not point of hiring these famous actresses if they have no material to work with or any dramatic substance to support.
Themes: "Chappie" tries to too hard too many complex issues - from the socioeconomic situation of South Africa to computer scientific dilemmas and unfortunately it fails dramatically. Unlike "District 9" where the "prawns" were a metaphor for discrimination and racism and the journey of a miserable man into a "prawn" hero showcased real emotions and drama, here the movie is all over the place. We start with socio-political elements and proceed to witness how "Chappie" can paint, steal and move like a cool person whereas every other more interesting character gets catapulted into cinematic oblivion until the inevitable final act that brings everyone together. The always difficult to answer and even to some extent to discuss subject of self-aware artificial intelligence, gets serious mistreatment without any focus to the consequences or ethics behind it.
Serious flaw: The computer science behind the film is ridiculous at certain points and the whole movie feels like an exercise for Sony product placement - laptops, phones, PS4s used for neurological procedures!? Unlike a movie like "Blade Runner" where AI has been established as a crucial and important element of that world, Blomkamp desperately tries to make everything scientifically fancy with words like "terrabytes" and "programming" used as magic concepts: the premise that a 25 year old or something with only coding experience can actually be an electrical engineer, programmer, software developper, psychologist, neuro-scientist in his free time and he managed to program the human brain and to understand consciousness sure he should be able to reach the level of god, no?...............Right....
Anything good: The presentation of Johannesburg is always excellent under Blomkamp's lens and he seems quite familiar now with cinema in his third film. Also, the action is nicely done, a bit up than the chaotic style of "Elisium" and it feels more organic this time around, bringing some hope for "Alien 5". The acting is good enough to elevate at certain levels the whole ludicrous story and certain ideas can and could be raised if only someone might invest in the bizarre and somewhat predicable storyline.
Although not a terrible film, this is one of the very average ones and considering the talent behind it-cast and crew, "Chappie" could have been so much more and a novel approach for AI for the 21st century. Unfortunately, it will be soon forgotten if this has not happened already.
+ especially Jackman
+ good action
+ interesting themes....
- terribly executed
- too many ideas
- predictable plot
- Chappie is not that interesting
- the computer science is just ridiculous here
- gauge your eyes Sony product placement