In 2009, Neil Blomkamp took moviegoers by storm with the original sci-fi movie, District 9. Love it or hate it, it presented a tale of science fiction that felt gritty and real. It also had the right amount of subtext underneath the action. He followed up that well-received movie with the heavy-handed Elysium. Everyone goes through a sophomore slump. Perhaps with Chappie, he has the chance to make a comeback.
That really depends on how much you like the South African rap group, Die Antwoord. This group, consisting of Ninja and Yolandi have a massive cult following in South Africa and abroad. I’d put one of their music videos up, but I don’t want to offend any readers. The mere viewing of a Die Antwoord video will give you eye cavities, not to mention the blood that will flow from your ears.
Ninja and Yolandi must have some incriminating photos of Blomkamp. I can’t see why else he would feature them this much in a big budget movie. It’s not for their acting ability. It’s not for their convincing look. The entire soundtrack is made up of their songs. Also, they play characters named….Ninja and Yolandi. If you ever forget their names, they will remind you by wearing customized T-shirts with their faces on the front and “Ninja: Die Antwoord” on the back. I’m not sure if this movie is trying to be self-aware or if Blomkamp just doesn’t care. At one point, Yolandi is wearing a Chappie t-shirt. Perhaps there is a deleted scene that references their full-time positions of working at a custom t-shirt shop. Once again, I feel like he is being blackmailed.
Just imagine an American counterpart to Chappie. It would star Fergie and Will-I-Am of the Black Eyed Peas. Of course they would play themselves.
The intro to Chappie is exactly like District 9 for no reason. People are being interviewed documentary-style talking about how “no one expected anything like Chappie.” The movie then flashes back 18 months. There’s never a return to the documentary footage. There is no reason for it. It’s laziness, meant to give the story some historical weight.
Deon (Dev Patel) is the creator of the Scout robots. These robots have been used as robot cops in South Africa and the testing has gone swimmingly. Crime is down and murder rates have dropped significantly. This irks Deon’s coworker, Vincent (Hugh Jackman with a mullet) who has a militarized robot of his own that he’d like to see in action.
Even though his superior (Sigourney Weaver) disapproves of creating a consciousness in the robots, Deon experiments on one anyways. While in the process, he is kidnapped (along with the robot) by Ninja and Yolandi. In just a few days they teach the sentient “Chappie” everything they know about world, which basically means speaking thuggish slang terms and how to commit crimes.
Eventually, Mullet Jackman catches on to Deon’s conscious creation and plots to shut every Scout bot down. Everything culminates in the South African ghettos in a war between two gangs, Chappie and Hugh mullet’s robot that was borrowed from Robocop.
That robot wasn’t the only thing borrowed from Robocop. Blomkamp freely steals from that as well as Short Circuit and also his two previous movies. His next movie is meant to be Alien 5. After the failure of Elysium and now Chappie, handing the franchise revitalization to him is a clear mistake. Worse things have happened to the Alien franchise, I suppose. AvP: Requiem & Prometheus come to mind.
Blomkamp stalwart Sharlto Copley voices and provides the motion-capture for Chappie. He makes for a lovable robot creation that could have been memorable if it weren’t for the terrible movie that surrounds him. Had this movie centered around Chappie and Dev Patel’s character, it would have been likable and not off-putting. Sigourney Weaver is wasted in the role. Also, Hugh “Party in the back” Jackman is not believable in the villainous role.
I’m happy to say that an underlying message wasn’t forced down our throats, ala Elysium. If Chappie was meant to say anything deeper, it’s that science is easy. You can recreate life using 12 Playstation 4s. Chappie could follow last year’s Lucy if you ever care to have a dumb science marathon.
Skip Chappie. I wish I could delete my memory of it, but the haircut will still haunt me. D+