Neil Blomkamp’s tale of the first perfect artificial intelligence, “Chappie”, finally hits our screens. With Hugh Jackman on board you could not help but salivate over the possibilities for this film. Sadly, your imagination would have most likely conjured up a better story as “Chappie” fails to reach its full potential.
The story starts off with Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) finally completing his life’s work. He has created software that allows a robot to be fully sentient. His previous work, “The Scout”, patrol throughout Johannesburg. The Scout model however, is limited in its programming. They stop crime, but are unable to care or feel. Wilson’s latest project sets out to change that, but Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver), the head of Tetra Vaal, could not care any less, leading to Deon stealing a damaged droid in order to bring Chappie to life. Of course, all does not go according to plan and Deon is hijacked by a criminal known as Ninja.
Yes, Ninja and Yolandi do not even bother to change their names and the film basically becomes a two hour advert for Die Antwoord. Surely one would think that less skilled actors like Yolandi and Ninja would get minimal roles, but they get more camera time than Hugh Jackman, who is underutilized in this film. Die Antwoord is a real deal breaker for this film. The score is basically a mix of their music work and the ZEF lifestyle is force fed to the viewer in 80% of the films running time. We are basically on the set of Zef music video, not a film. Have Die Antwoord become so popular that they could pull off acting in a big budget film? No.
The beauty of Blomkamp’s District 9 is that the film felt world class – even Elysium did to a degree, despite its shocking reviews. But “Chappie” feels cheap. Very cheap. The story is basically Short Circuit with gangsters, but unlike the movie robots before him, Chappie does not really develop. He is a lovable character, due to his childlike innocence, temper tantrums and South Africa accent and vernacular. And even though he only has five days to live, you do not care that his battery fades away little by little each day. He offers a good few laughs but, like most of this film, the punchlines are predictable. Sharlto Copely is the only one trying to create a decent film as he does a great job on voice acting.
There are far too many plot holes and inconsistencies. Deon tells Chappie not to commit crime, but he stole Chappie in the first place and agrees to work with criminals in order to see his robot progress. So you do not want your robot to commit crimes but you do nothing much to rid him of that upbringing? Clearly he is no Geppetto.
Hugh Jackman’s character does the obvious at the obvious time. He is always clad in Khaki shorts, dressed like an Afrikaner, but he is Australian and for some reason he likes to have a rugby ball within his reach. Ninja wants to be gangster number one, but his outfits and action scenes look beyond ridiculous. He is not scary at all. He honestly just looks comical. Yolandi is main gangster number two, but her motherly instincts kicked in once she sees Chappie. A hardcore gangster turns into a mother in the blink of an eye is not realistic.
Chappie is supposed to be an advanced AI but he is unable to tell when he is being lied to and tricked into doing crime. Some of this worked well and played into the comedy aspect of the film, but I am certain this was not intended to be a comedy. There are more inconsistencies in this film and far too many things happen too conveniently.
But is “Chappie” a terrible film? No. “Chappie” is a disappointment. I expected Blomkamp to make something so good that people would forget Elysium. However, Chappie will leave people thinking that Elysium was actually not that bad. Viewers will also think that he may never better District 9.
If you can stomach a blatant marketing scheme for Die Antwoord you may enjoy the spectacular action sequences the finale has to offer, but I would rather chew on a stale Chappie for 90 minutes than watch this film again.