Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver
No one expected Neill Blomkamp to make every film as great as 'District 9', but certainly no one expected him to take such harsh criticism in just his third film. 'Chappie' has almost been universally slammed, presumably by critics who wanted more of the cerebral pleasures of his first film.
Poster of 'Chappie'. Pic/Santa Banta
What the critics failed to see is that, 'Chappie', on its own, is actually a pretty good movie. The story is a tad weird, for commercial Hollywood at least. Two thugs by the names of Ninja and Yolandi (played by the eponymous Die Antwoord band members) are upset about the robotic police battalion protecting the city. So they decide to kidnap the scientist (Dev Patel) operating the robots. The scientist on the other hand has developed a robot with artificial intelligence very close to human conscience. The thugs discover the robot, and train him to become as horrible as them and break the law for their own benefit.
Although there are some similarities to his previous films, it’s a radical departure from Blomkamp’s usual style of filmmaking, because this has neither the faux documentary style approach of 'District 9' nor the overtly serious blockbuster nature of 'Elysium'. Anyone who thinks Blomkamp is a bad filmmaker needs to get his eyes checked because the film looks and feels alive, like an entity on its own. Every scene is bursting with energy and wit. Ninja and Yolandi are hilariously disgusting characters and you can’t help but laugh at the cynical comedy of them raising a child robot to help them do more bad stuff.
The biggest criticism, apart from Hugh Jackman’s nonsensical villain, you can aim at Blomkamp and this movie is that it is style over substance. Sure, when there’s so much style and also a heart in the story, the lack of substance only becomes a minor niggle. Any self-respecting fan of Blomkamp will connect the dots and point out the underlying themes of the meaning of humanity that each of his films ask. What if a robot can think exactly like a human, and what if human consciousness is transferred into a robot, and what if a human is reborn as a robot — what is the difference between a human and a robot then? 'Chappie' asks some pretty solid questions, while delivering the action spectacle as well. If you enjoy action-packed, crazy cinema with a dash of brains, you can do a lot worse than 'Chappie'.