“CHAPPiE” (Film Review & Trailer)



Turning what could have been just another I, Robot Director Neill Blomkamp makes his film Chappie a winning sci-fi thriller. The film opens with exciting action and continues on a rollercoaster ride only slowing down to create new characters. It’s the first livewire of the year and opening during a spring break weekend should bolster the box-office. While males 17 and over including a large college crowd will fill theaters this weekend, the movie is not for kids with its display of strong violence and language. However, what Chappie gains in electrifying thrills, it lacks in emotion and charm.

The film opens in Johannesburg, South Africa with the city’s robot police force taking care of crime. The fierce fighting robots are called Scouts a project headed up by Dion Wilson (Dev Patel) at the Tetraaval Corporation. But, Dion wants more than a controlled robot, he’s attempting to make one that can think for itself and has feelings. Dion’s working diligently in secret on his new artificial intelligence program, but gets noticed by his boss Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver). While not opposed to the idea, she’s watching the budget and doesn’t feel a need for change right now.  Meanwhile his competitor at the company, Vince Moore (Hugh Jackman) who’s the lead on a super robot prototype 473, would like to see Dion fail as it would give him more funding for his project. When a street gang made up of Yolandi “Mommy” (Yo-Landi Visser), Ninja “Daddy” (Ninja) and Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo) get an idea that they could kidnap Dion and get control of the robot police, things start to get out of hand.

Chappie with "master" Dion (Dev Patel)

Chappie (Sharlto Copley) with “master” Dion (Dev Patel)

The movie moves at a fairly good pace filling the screen with violence brought on by local gangs. It then shifts gears and we get introduced to Chappie (Sharlto Copley) a child like robot equipped with artificial intelligence. Director Neill Blomkamp who delivered the films District 9 and Elysium to the screen helms this thriller using a lot of what he gathered in the aforementioned movies. I like what he has done with his police controlled Scout robots in Chappie making them take control of even the most dangerous situations while protecting human ground troops. His superbot character  isn’t anything new however, just a huge bot that we’ve seen in many of the superhero films and that’s a bit of a letdown.

Chappie fights out the Super Robot

Chappie fights out the Super Robot

Blomkamp is also the co-writer of the screen story for Chappie. While I do like all the action and the continuous excitement, I’m not totally convinced about the script, especially the coming of age of Chappie. It’s hard for me to grasp that if you have a robot and can install artificial intelligence, why not just provide all the data. There’s a world of knowledge that could have been fed directly into the brain of Chappie without “bringing him up from a child”. His premise actually works against the film rather than enhancing the cuteness. You be the judge on this when and if you go to see the movie.

On the bright side I did like the performance of Dev Patel as Dion the lead creator of the Scout robot police. He takes control of the film with some very good acting, gives it a realistic look and even adds some comic relief. His intensity increases as the film goes on trying to protect his newest invention now up against his own Scout police force. You will probably recognize Patel from Slumdog Millionaire and The Best Marigold Hotel in which he is featured star.
Two performers that do an outstanding job as hoodlums are rapper/singers Yo-Landi Vissir who plays “Mommy” and Ninja who plays “Daddy” to Chappie. The South African natives are very good actors. They show two sides of their characters being tough crass rebels surviving in an abandoned warehouse and also caretakers for their new found “son”. Their performances proviede the only scenes of empathy, comedy and emotion in the film. Just as a quick note for  those who are not familiar with the South African rap band Die Antwoord, Yo-Landi Vissir and Ninja are the two lead performers of the group.

Chappie has been rated R for violence, language and brief nudity. The violence gets intense and the language very strong so think twice about allowing anyone under 17 see the film.

FINAL ANALYSIS: An exciting film that should pacify sci-fi addicts until the summer blockbusters roll-in. (B-)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Brandon Auret
Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, Thriller
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and brief nudity
Running Time: 2 hours
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

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