I’ll just say it, I’m scared. “Chappie” is such a banal piece of cinema with no life to it that I am scared for the upcoming “Alien” franchise sequel/reboot that director Neill Blomkamp is planning as this movie barely has any likeable characters, with bad dialogue along with borrowed plot points from a myriad of other films and logic jumps that would make any person’s head spin.
It’s the near future and the police force in Johannesburg has decided to put mechanized officers called “scouts” in order to bring down the ever rising tide of crime in their city. People want and are happy with the lifeless robots, but one programmer Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) wants them to be so much more. One night he steals one of the scouts that is scheduled for demolition, with the intent of giving it new programming, in hopes that he could become sentient and have free will. He becomes the first ever robot to ever be able to think and to feel, and subsequently gets kidnapped by a bunch of low level gangsters to become one of their own while his programmer Deon tries to keep him on the straight and narrow. Soon destructive forces from all around him find that a robot with free will to be a terrifying threat to the status quo and will stop at nothing to make sure that Chappie is the last of his kind, but with free will comes the in ate desire to live and protect his loved ones and Chappie learns how to fight back.
With direct visual rip-offs from everything from “Robocop” to the “Short Circuit” movies; “Chappie” brings nothing new to the table with a series of characters who are just flat out annoying and silly, leaving any hope for anything concrete and genuine in the background.
Neill Blomkamp is in danger of becoming an absolute after thought in Hollywood. While it was a visual solid movie, the direction was stilted and the narrative was uneven as it was never quite sure who should be the focus of the movie. And sadly when he spends most of his time with the two gangsters played by the members of the band Die Antwoord (Ninja & Yo-Landi) who are essentially playing themselves it still doesn’t work since this is their first every feature role and they just aren’t up to the job. At almost every turn Blomkamp makes the wrong decisions, as the script made wrong turns, spent too long on one thing and glanced over or even overlooked others and we never get into this story about the birth of a new being because we just don’t care.
Sharito Copley as the voice of Chappie is borderline offensive as it is dripping with slang and attitude that never feels genuine or real and plays like he is just goofing around in the sound booth. The less said about Die Antwoord the better while Hugh Jackman never has the right tone and plays the bad guy a little too desperately to ever be menacing and I hope Sigourney Weaver at least got a nice paycheck for showing up because she was utterly waster. Only Dev Patel as the wide eyed computer programmer managed any kind of genuine character development and even old fashioned likeability, because I never got to care about anyone else in this movie for a stinking solitary minute.
“Chappie” was an unholy mess that was so bad, it was actually a little bit insulting. Blomkamp unquestionably has an eye for visuals that can hold our attention but he needs to sit down with a genuine screenwriter before he does anything else as bad as this was because when the dialogue and the narrative wasn’t doing something that was laughably bad, it was just doing something out right goofy.
Don’t subject yourself to “Chappie”, even in the doldrums of the winter schedule, you can find something better than this. It is a misstep in every sense of the word.