Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Ninja and ¥o-Landi Vi$$er, Jose Pablo Cantillo, with Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman and Brandon Auret.
Age Restriction: 16 DLV
Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama
Runtime: 120 minutes
Release date: 13 March 2015
South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp (District 9) returns with his third feature film, Chappie, which tells the story of a robot who can think for himself and feel emotions.
Now, bear in mind that Chappie is not a South African film, but a Hollywood production distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment. However, Chappie’s story does takes place completely in SA and features a few local actors such as Brandon Auret, SA rap group Die Antwoord and Sharlto Copley (who’s already became a household name in Hollywood), along with some Hollywood A-listers Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver and Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel.
Chappie takes place in Johannesburg where the high crime rate has been decreasing rapidly due to the employment of police robots (the first city to do so) - who are bulletproof and follow orders exactly.
When Deon Wilson (Patel) – the creator of the robots - invents a programme that could enable a robot to think for itself, feel emotions and even have opinions, he pitches this idea to his boss Michelle Bradley (Weaver) CEO of Tetravaal – a weapons manufacturer who builds Deon’s police robots - only for her to reject his idea.
In order to test his new idea, Deon steals a damaged robot, throws it in the back of his van and flees - only to be kidnapped by gangsters. The gangsters - played by Die Antwoord’s Yolandi Visser and Ninja, essentially playing fictionalised versions of themselves, initially want Deon to shut down all the police robots, but when they discover the damaged robot at the back of Deon’s van, they instead ask him to make a robot to fight for them.
Deon fixes up the robot and sees this as an opportunity to test his programme. He inserts his chip and Chappie (voiced and motion captured by Sharlto Copley) is born.
Designed to act and think like a human being, Chappie starts out as baby and quickly learns his first words and about life and choices, making him a one-of-a-kind robot... with Yolandi and Ninja acting as his parental figures.
So what about Hugh Jackman? He plays antagonist Vincent Moore - a Tetravaal employee who is jealous of Deon’s success and completely enraged when his employers refuse the funding of his MOOSE robots – which require a human to operate them - and will go to great lengths to get what he wants.
Judging by the film’s plot, it’s easy to see that Chappie had an interesting concept filled with many great ideas. Director Neill Blomkamp has always had an amazing storytelling gift with ideas that look great on paper and have the potential to make a superb film.
And sure, Chappie fills that space. But it’s all about the execution of these ideas, and like Blomkamp’s previous effort Elysium, Chappie fails accomplish its brilliant ideas resulting in a film that’s average at best.
Chappie starts out great, but by the time we reach the middle point, the story disintegrates and begins to feel rushed in order to get to the finish line of its two-hour run. This prevents Chappie’s ideas from truly evolving on screen and getting to the levels that it should've.
Chappie’s moderate $49-million budget leads me to question how on earth the studio expected the filmmakers to pull off a film with big ideas on such a budget? The film’s action sequences could’ve been so much better with a bigger budget.
At least Blomkamp got the film’s ending right resulting in an unsuspecting plot twist that will surprise and delight audiences, ending the film on a high note.
The cast all do a great job in portraying their characters and despite Brandon Auret’s relatively small appearance as powerful gangster Hippo, the actor completely pulls a standout performance.
Die Antwoord are not that bad either with Yolandi Visser surprising audiences with her performance.
The Verdict: Boasting really great ideas, Chappie sadly misses the mark by failing to execute these ideas accurately resulting in a lukewarm film at best.