Review by Anthony Tyson. March 20, 2015
To start, I like Chappie. Well, the robot at least. It was key that Neil Blomkamp (director) convince me that Chappie was charasmatic, as he is what the movie is largely about. The thing that kills me though, is that any character around him comes off as wasted. This is a pity as many great actors play these roles. People such as Hugh Jackman, and Sigourney Weaver are just set up as one-dimenensional antagonists, and it's just a shame. Before I completely harp on the negatives though, I do want to bring up the positives.
The first thing about Chappie that I like, I mentioned above. I really like Chappie himself. He starts simply as a baby, goes through a period of 'adolescence', and becomes his own man. He learns from the world around him, and it's very compelling to see him go through both good and bad decisions.
The other thing I also liked, was the aesthetic of the film. I really appreciate the attention of detail and the imagination Blomkamp puts into his future tech. Aliens, robots, giant mech suits; whatever it is, he gets it right. I cannot stress enough about how much love I have for the way he uses CG to enhance his films. After these two points however, the rest are dislikes and utterly missed opportunities.
These missteps come from largely two different things: focus on the wrong supporting characters, and his pacing toward the last 40 minutes of the film. These problems are repeat offenders unfortunately, as these were two of the biggest issues with Elysium, (though that did have another million problems as well). Towards my first complaint, the plot largely revolves around Chappie and the events surrounding himself and a team of gangsters that specialize in stealing and transporting narcotics, guns, cars, etc. The group is comprised of America (Jose Pablo Cantillo), and the two members of Die Antword (the South African rap duo): Ninja and Yolandi. They even keep their stage names, which I found incredibly annoying. The point is though, that instead of focusing on the jucstiposition between his creator Deon (Dev Petel), and the arrogant soldier/weapons designer Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), Blomkamp decides to work on the 'relationship' between the gangsters and Chappie in an incredibly forced "mommy and daddy" plot line. If 'Ninja' had the empathy of Yolandi, it might have worked. Unfortunately, Ninja is an utter dick and his last stand moment in the last 40 minutes of the movie (Segway incoming!), carries no emotional impact whatsoever. You really just want him to die.
On the mention of the last 40 minutes (told you it was coming), let's talk about how ridiculously convenient everything is as the movie comes to it conclusion. I will do my best to not reveal everything, but this will contain spoilers in order to explain my point. You are warned!
So as the movie gets to its conclusion, the weapons designer Vincent finally gets the approval to use his remote controlled mech 'Moose' to go get rid of Chappie. He controls this through a neural transmitter, a helmet designed to read and respond to someone's neural pathways in the brain. After he takes the mech to go get rid of Chappie, he winds up getting in a shootout with chappie and crew; which are already in a fight with these other gangsters. During this convoluted cluster-fuck Yolandi dies, and Chappie's creator Deon gets badly wounded. Chappie takes him to this tech company's research lab were Vincent is; take him out, and then nab that neural interface I mentioned previously. Chappie uses this to download Deon's consciousness into another robot, and the movie ends with he and Chappie being robots as well as Yolandi becoming reborn as a robot herself. This whole process is so rushed, and any emotional impact is completely lost. Unlike District 9, Bompkamp's stellar breakout film, this ending leaves no final message or impact. Very disappointing.
I wanted this movie to be good so badly! I had high hopes that this might be Blomkamp's return to form after the colossal disappointment of Elysium, but it just didn't happen. Chappie is simply, disappointing. I didn't completely hate it, but I could tell that there was something more than what we are currently left with. I just hope he can nail the upcoming 'Aliens' movie he is working on, or Blomkamp might fade into the ether: remaining a one hit wonder.
A rental, if you like robots.