Review – Chappie

Humanity’s last hope may not be human as the poster to Neill Blomkamp’s latest dramatically implies, but it also isn’t any good.

A mess from start to finish, Chappie adds to the growing body of evidence that suggests Blomkamp is nothing more than a one-trick pony

A mess from start to finish, Chappie adds to the growing body of evidence that suggests Blomkamp is nothing more than a one-trick pony

Instead, Chappie is a mess; a further misguided step backwards in what was once a career full of real promise for its writer-director.

In promoting the film, Blomkamp has taken the admirably honest approach of conceding that he “f**ked up” his previous picture Elysium (2013) by not having developed a strong enough narrative and script out of what was a promising concept.

Chappie's creator Deon (Dev Patel)

Chappie’s creator Deon (Dev Patel)

The same charge can also be levelled at Chappie; an intriguing idea crippled by a shoddy script and a tone that drunkenly veers between family friendly cutesiness and over-the-top sweary violence; usually involving a pair of ridiculous cartoon gangstas played by South African rappers Die Antwoord.

Blomkamp returns to his native Johannesburg for this near-future parable in which robots have been purchased from multi-national weapons manufacturer Tetravaal by the police to help restore order to the streets. Their creator Deon (Dev Patel) goes one better and develops the world’s first artificial intelligence, which he installs into a terminally damaged droid he’s stolen from his employers. However, the ‘bot is droid-napped by street thugs who want to use it to help them pull a heist, but don’t count on forming an emotional attachment to the sentient cyborg, which they name Chappie.

Street thugs Ninja (Ninja) and Yolandi (Yolandi Visser) in Chappie

Street thugs Ninja (Ninja) and Yolandi (Yolandi Visser) in Chappie

The social awareness that gave Blomkamp’s 2009 debut District 9 and the first half of Elysium its edge is nowhere to be seen here; rather the film paints with broad strokes (weapons manufacturers are bad and only care about money, in case you may have suspected otherwise) and lacks the satirical edge of his previous work.

Sections of the film simply make no sense, such as how on earth Deon is able to smuggle both a droid and the all-important ‘guard key’ out of a (supposedly) highly secure weapons firm without being spotted, and for it to take several days before someone finally realises it’s gone.

Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), a surefire Best Hair 2016 Oscar winner, in Chappie

Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), a surefire Best Hair 2016 Oscar winner, in Chappie

Likewise, it’s not clear exactly what Tetravaal employee Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman, great hair) is doing at the company bearing in mind his attack robot ‘the MOOSE’ (a shameless homage to ED-209 from RoboCop, to which Chappie owes a huge debt) has been sidelined by the firm’s CEO (Sigourney Weaver, looking lost). He also strolls around the office with a gun, which one imagines would contravene health and safety guidelines.

The character of Chappie itself is vividly realised by Weta Digital and the motion capture blends seamlessly into the environment. Unfortunately, Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley delivers an exaggerated performance in the mo-cap suit that soon becomes annoying.

Chappie (Sharlto Copley) goes all street

Chappie (Sharlto Copley) goes all street

However, it’s not nearly as aggravating as the turns put in by Ninja and Yolandi Visser as Chappie’s street outlaw ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’. Resembling rejects from Mad Max, both (Ninja especially) are desperately out of their depth and struggle to register a single convincing emotion between them. A moment towards the end with Ninja on his knees, arms outstretched and screaming in anger (in slow motion no less), is already a low point in 2015 cinema.

The wooden spoon is reserved, though, for Brandon Auret, whose ludicrous performance as crimelord Hippo is so bad it’s almost passable. Served with awful dialogue (which is subtitled even though it’s perfectly understandable), Auret’s wild-eyed gurning provides the biggest laughs as he roars, on more than one occasion, “I want EVERYTHING!”.

A mess from start to finish, Chappie adds to the growing body of evidence that suggests Blomkamp is nothing more than a one-trick pony.

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36 comments

  1. le0pard13 · March 14, 2015

    Heard so many bad reviews of this, which is unfortunate. Had been high anticipating the film.

  2. MovieManJackson · March 14, 2015

    Sounds like I am in the minority for this. I too think it is flawed, but I still found myself invested in Chappie and his story.I think I want to see again lol. Great review!

    • Three Rows Back · March 14, 2015

      Cheers! Yeah, sorry so think you might be in the minority on this one!

  3. Tom · March 14, 2015

    Couldn’t agree more man, Chappie was basically a disaster from start to finish. Personally, I could have gotten over the hammy performances by Die Antwoord; these folks aren’t known for their subtlety, much less being able to act in a film ofthis magnitude. But when taken altogether with the stupid story, all the characters who lack any redeeming qualities whatsoever, and the fact that this borrows from so many sci fi classics without saying thanks it’s kind of unforgivable. Chappie chapped my ass. Lol.

    • Three Rows Back · March 15, 2015

      A “disaster from start to finish” is putting it perfectly. The worst film I’ve seen this year without a doubt. I had a lot of faith in Blomkamp and was even prepared to look the other way when Elysium ended so badly, but this confirms to me that he’s basically the next M. Night Shyamalan; the new emperor whose new clothes are oddly reminiscent of what he was wearing before.

  4. Dan O. · March 14, 2015

    It’s a weird movie, but it was one that always found ways to surprise me with every step it took. Nice review.

    • Three Rows Back · March 15, 2015

      Thank you Dan. You obviously took more out of it than I did.

  5. fernandorafael · March 14, 2015

    Great reviews. This is so sad because it had a lot of potential.

  6. ruth · March 15, 2015

    I didn’t know he admitted that Elysium was bad. Heh, sounds like this one wasn’t an improvement either though. Glad I skipped it, seems that D-9 is the only good work he’s done so far.

    • Three Rows Back · March 26, 2015

      Sorry Ruth, I thought I’d responded to this. Obviously not! Yeah, don’t bother!!

      • ruth · March 26, 2015

        Oh that’s ok man, trust me I’ve done that before. Yeah I’ll avoid this one, not even interested in renting it.

      • Three Rows Back · March 27, 2015

        Fair enough!

  7. Stu · March 16, 2015

    I think we are pretty much on the same page with this one! It’s a shame that he hasn’t been able to equal that first film but it’s also worrying that the drop off in quality has been so quick and obvious. Auret’s character really is awful, but the rest are really badly written too.

    • Three Rows Back · March 26, 2015

      Sorry Stu for not getting back before. Yes, I think we are well and truly down on this. Auret’s character is terrible and he’s terrible in it. Man, this was bad!

  8. Andrew · March 16, 2015

    I’m glad that I’ll never be compelled to see this πŸ˜›

    Great review!

    • Three Rows Back · March 26, 2015

      Thanks buddy. Er, no. You are not missing anything at all here.

  9. Victor De Leon · March 18, 2015

    Good review! I am on the fence about this one. Despite the negative word of mouth, I am still intrigued for some reason. Dont get me wrong, there are way too many other films that I am sure are worth my time, to watch first. So, I am in no rush to see this one. I enjoyed your write up, though. Very honest! Good job πŸ™‚

    • Three Rows Back · March 18, 2015

      Thanks Vic. Blomkamp has pretty much burned any goodwill I had left with this. I still hope he’s got another District 9 in him but I ain’t holding my breath.

      • Victor De Leon · March 18, 2015

        Yeah, at this point he appears to be a one trick pony. Too bad.

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  11. ckckred · March 20, 2015

    Nice review. Can’t say I was looking forward to this. I thought District 9 was good but overrated and Elysium was overly bombastic. I’m sure 20th Century Fox is now regretting signing Blomkamp up for the Alien reboot.

    • Three Rows Back · March 26, 2015

      Sorry for the late response. I imagine you may be right buddy. Chappie is a disaster for all intents and purposes.

  12. Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop · March 22, 2015

    What an utterly bizarre film this was. Largely a complete mess though as you say Mark. I thought pretty much every character was incredibly irritating, none moreso than Ninja. He kinda reminded me of a South African Tim Westwood. I’m always wary when people (nearly always musicians) use their own names in films.

    • Three Rows Back · March 26, 2015

      Ha ha! Yes!! I hadn’t thought of Ninja as a SA Tim Westwood but now you mention it you’re spot on mate. He’s as shambolic as this filme to be honest.

  13. James River · April 2, 2015

    Great review! The ending is similar to District 9 but I still love this movie.

    • Three Rows Back · April 8, 2015

      Thank you James. Sorry we disagree, but glad you enjoyed it.

  14. Consumed by Film · April 20, 2015

    Great write-up! Nodded along with every passing word. I didn’t find District 9 immensely enjoyable but really appreciated its intelligence and awareness. I even sort of liked Elysium. But this is, at best, recycled material. Hopefully doing an Alien film will finally force Blomkamp away from the whole doomed society/man-vs-machine thing. Hopefully.

    Adam.

    • Three Rows Back · April 20, 2015

      Thank you! I had a blast with District 9, but then I only saw it the once. I wonder if it will stand up to a second viewing? Well, for Alien 5 Blomkamp can swap man vs machine with man vs alien…

      • Consumed by Film · April 20, 2015

        Funnily enough I enjoyed District 9 a lot more second time around. Haha, indeed! It’s meant to be a sequel to Aliens, right? I’ve avoided 3 and 4 up until now.

      • Three Rows Back · April 20, 2015

        That’s right. I actually think Alien 3 is underrated, but then it’s been a while since I’ve seen it.

      • Consumed by Film · April 20, 2015

        I’ll give it a go, think I have it lying around the house somewhere. About to watch Terminator 3 for the first time – must be allergic to third parts!

      • Three Rows Back · April 20, 2015

        That one’s not so good.

  15. indiefan20 · April 29, 2015

    Too bad it sucks so much, “District 9” was actually a quality film, and it’s one of my sixteen-year-old brother’s favorite movies. I wanted to watch “Elysium,” but decided not to after reading so much flack about it. According to reviews, this seems to be the worst of the lot, and I wonder what could have been done with it with better actors and a stronger script. Excellent review, you really articulated what you hated about it.

    • Three Rows Back · April 30, 2015

      Thank you! I do like articulating a hate-filled review! Yeah, save yourself the time. It’s a mess and I honestly wonder what more he can bring to the table.

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