“Chappie” The R-Rated “Short Circuit” That Tried....

By Scott Kurland

Starring: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Yo-Landie Visser, Ninja, and Sigourney Weaver
Rated R
Director: Neil Blomkamp

It seems like with today’s movie options everything is either a sequel or a remake. Sometimes will their films a “reboot” which is just remake with a fancy name....they aren’t fooling anyone. It feels like theres no more original ideas anymore for normal box office films. Sure, the Oscars gives us creative idea after creative idea, but what about the slow months? What about the March and August months, when nothing good will come out for another month or two. That’s why I got excited to review this week’s film ‘CHAPPiE” directed by one of the best new directors around Neil Blomkamp. Blomkamp was the genius behind “District 9” and “Elysium”. So after two big successes can Blomkamp’s creativity last? Let’s find out.

“CHAPPiE” is set in a not too distant future where robot police officers called “scout” survey the streets of South Africa. The scout program is being hailed as brilliant and inventive, and its creator Deon (Dev Patel) appears to be on the rise. Deon goes one step further and creates a working A.I (artificial intelligence) software that acts as a brain. However, his creation now named “CHAPPiE” (Sharlto Copley) ends up in the wrong hands. Those wrong hands belong to two criminals named Yolandi and Ninja (played by rap group Die Antwoord). Ninja and Yolandi try and use “CHAPPiE” for heists and other criminal activity, and due to “CHAPPiE’s” child like brain he believes he’s doing good. This leads to Deon’s rival Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) being sent in with his military robots to take “CHAPPiE” out. Will all of Deon’s work be for nothing? Or will “CHAPPiE” learn the true meaning of humanity?

Dev Patel and Sharlto Copley are slowly becoming two of my favorite actors. Patel, has been on my radar ever since “Slumdog Millionaire”, which lead to a brilliant turn on the tv show “The Newsroom”. Patel is very likable in almost everything he does....as long as it is not “The Last Airbender”. As Deon, Patel is smart and intelligent as we see him tirelessly build “CHAPPiE” from the ground up. Sadly, that is only the first twenty minutes. Once “CHAPPiE” ends up in the hands of the thugs his story kind of ends. We see him, but we don’t get a more cohesive character. I wanted more information about Deon, a more fleshed out back story or even a more fleshed out present story.

Copley on the other hand is just about brilliant in everything he does. He was the only saving grace in “Oldboy”, and he’s the most entertaining part of “CHAPPiE”. Copley truly captures that child like sensibility that needed to be present in a character like this. “CHAPPiE” is always curious and continuously learning everything he does. Copley makes that naive juvenile state so clearly present in every scene. Like a child “CHAPPiE” asks questions, he throws tantrums, and he also forgives as easily as he gets mad. It takes a truly gifted actor to make a character like this work, because this is a character that sounds good on paper, but it needs to work well on screen. Like usual Copley does not disappoint and proves how underrated he truly is.

There’s a lot of things I liked about this movie and there’s a lot of things that I down right loathed. Jackman’s church going God fearing military engineer who works for a robotics company. that I loved. Why you might ask? Because here’s a guy who clearly works for this company for one reason, to build killing machines. I liked that Blomkamp wrote this character as a sadistic man who believes he’s doing “the Lords” work. I also loved Blomkamps story as a whole. Robotic AI? That is genius and also the fear it will cause in the uninformed’s eyes is such a hot topic issue. Blomkamp does so well addressing it in the first hour and a half only to have it fall apart at the end. That leads me to what I loath about this film.

I had two major issues with “CHAPPiE”, the first being the ending. The last five minutes destroys all the hard work Blomkamp had us get invested in. There’s violence and graphic destruction, and what it leads to is an ending that is so happy, and it feels like the ending of the never made “Short Circuit 3”. Blomkamp shot a really great ending and then tacks on a closing scene that was so ridiculous and uncalled for. I won’t give anything away but if you see this film, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. 

My other beef with this film is one of the leads, Ninja from Die Antwoord playing....Ninja...well that’s the characters name. I was very invested in his partner Yo-landi’s mother like character, but he is so harsh and abusive that it is unpleasant. When he supposedly learned a lesson I found that incredibly unbelievable. Maybe if it was Eminem or Sean Penn playing this role we’d see a more realistic and likable anti-hero. However, the way Ninja treats others and claims dominance is too much too soon. I know this leads to the conversation of maker vs. father, and thats what Blomkamp was going for. But that’s not what it felt like. On screen this argument felt more like Patel’s Deon was the biological father, and Ninja was the abusive stepdad. There’s never a clear answer to this question nor is there an explanation for such a vile character. Yes, he needs money to pay off a debt, but he doesn’t need to be so abusive while he tries and gets it.

Blomkamp tries his best, but I have to deduct major points for those two flaws. You can’t force a happy ending, if your film is dark from the beginning STAY DARK. If your film is happy from the beginning STAY HAPPY. You can’t force one on the other. Still, the first 90 minutes is such a well thought out and developed film, so I have to slightly recommend this film for that stellar  90 minute arc. Also, Hugh Jackman’s “MacGrubber” mullet is worth the price of admission alone. “CHAPPiE” means well, but with a forced ending and such an unlikable lead either see it as a matinee or wait until its out on Blu-ray or rental.

scott kurlandComment