Neill Blomkamp’s major malfunction – “Chappie” review

Photo from epk.tv Chappie (Copley) tries to act like a gangster
Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures
Chappie (Copley) tries to act like a gangster

zero stars

Devin King | Staff Reporter
Published March 6, 2015; 2:10 p.m.

South African director Neill Blomkamp has been known for his refreshing take on the sci-fi genre with his last two films, the social commentaries “District 9” and “Elysium.” Disappointingly though, Blomkamp’s new movie “Chappie” is crammed with clichés and numerous tropes that bog down the already poor script.

Taking place in the near future where human-controlled robots have been developed for law enforcement to combat the South African crime epidemic, the lead developer of the robots, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), uploads his recently created artificial intelligence software into a damaged robot which (or who?) is dubbed as Chappie (voiced by Sharlto Copley in his third film with Blomkamp).

Creative concepts and great world-building fill the first act. When Chappie is first introduced, he starts out with a childish persona, since his AI must take time to “mature,” reminding the audience of its own youth. At this moment, the film begins to run out of batteries.

Chappie is “adopted” by gang members Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er (real-life rave-rap duo Die Antwoord) who literally star as themselves, same names and everything. Chappie begins to act like a street thug, and while this does pave way for some funny moments, the machine’s characteristics slowly become tiresome and annoying.

At this point, the film’s ambitious ideas are poorly executed. All the deep questions “Chappie” asks in the beginning are given mediocre answers and many plot devices are revealed to be common movie tropes.

The overall narration of “Chappie” is confusing. The movie tries to fit drama, comedy, action and philosophical themes in the span of a few minutes at times. With little to no transitions in between these polarizing themes, the movie becomes a disorienting experience.

“Chappie” also expects its audience to have an emotional connection to its cast without introducing convincing character connections. The biggest offenders of this are Ninja, Yo-Landi and the inexplicably villainous Vincent Moore (a wooden Hugh Jackman). Ninja and Yo-Landi are given no character development at all, but get enough undeserved screen time to make “Chappie” feel like one big Die Antwoord music video. As the main antagonist, Moore is a very basic villain that ends up making nonsensical decisions for the sake of being evil, and Jackman’s performance does not help this at all.

Legendary musician Hans Zimmer (“The Lion King,” “Inception”) composed the film’s very forgettable score, which is really saying something.

“Chappie’s” ultimately unsatisfying conclusion is littered with awful lines (such as Moore uttering to Chappie, “Your day of reckoning has come!”), cheesy action and senseless plot solutions. Blomkamp does not keep any of the promises he makes, leaving “Chappie” to be one big mess of nuts and bolts rather than a cohesive, living machine.

Watch Devin King’s video review of “Chappie” here.

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