Chappie Movie Review
South African accents. High-tech gadgetry. A questionable ending. Yes, it’s another movie from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp! Following up on the lackluster Elysium, Blomkamp has to some degree redeemed himself with Chappie, an inventive rip-off hybrid of Short Circuit and Robocop that works until it doesn’t.
Chappie is about a scrap-metal police robot who is given artificial intelligence by a genius programmer, posing the question—at least in Blomkamp’s mind—what makes us human? But really, Chappie is about a fast-learning robot who grows up under the tutelage of two mentally disabled criminals (played by something called Die Antwoord) and eventually is forced to fight to save his newfound family.
No surprise, Chappie looks great, but the filmmaker has put together a solid movie—or at least a solid hour with a less-solid hour tacked on for good measure. The early scenes where Chappie is learning and his maker (Dev Patel) is playing straight man to the weird-ass Die Antwoord duo, made up of Yo-Landi Vasser and Ninja—whose characters are called Yolandi and Ninja—are extremely entertaining. The music, also by Die Antwoord, works well in the context within the movie, even though my friend described the film as one long, obnoxious “Die Antwoord music video.”
Blomkamp begins to stumble as he tries to prepare the movie for the inevitable action-packed climax, and an obligatory dumb-ass ending. While Chappie never falls apart, it definitely drags in a few parts. And the climax doesn’t really fit with the rest of the movie—Chappie’s sudden emergence as action hero is abrupt and not particularly logical. In fact, the entire third act feels rushed and half-assed compared to the first half, especially when Blomkamp tries to do too much in the film’s final minutes.
Also, while I rather liked Vasser, Ninja is so obnoxiously obnoxious—not just because he calls himself Ninja—I wanted him dead within the first few minutes.
Chappie has plenty of flaws, but it’s still highly entertaining. It may be a rip-off of Short Circuit, Robocop and many other movies that question the use of robotics, but it’s a fun ride while it lasts.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.