Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Ninja and Yolandi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo
Plot: In the future, Johannesburg is overrun with crime, until a robotic police force known as Scouts is created, and it successfully maintains the peace. The Scouts' creator manages to invent an AI program and wants to test it, but a group of gangbangers kidnap him and force him to implement the program on a stolen Scout robot, so that they can use him for their criminal activities. The robot, named Chappie, however becomes much more than any of them expected.
Review: Neill Blomkamp's films have a certain amount of things in common: oppression, violence and actor Sharlto Copley. District 9 is still his crown jewel but Elysium was a slight letdown. I'm happy to note that Chappie is pretty good work from Blomkamp.
While many people may think that Chappie is similar to Short Circuit, it actually shares some common ground with Robocop as well. The story of a robot thinking and feeling like a human is the main focus here, but also present is the fierce competition between two robot makers. In Robocop, Miguel Ferrer's successful invention made Ronny Cox's heavy duty robot look bad, the same way Dev Patel's Scout robots does to Hugh Jackman's huge and ugly contraption here.
But as said above, Chappie is mostly about a robot discovering human emotions, and Copley does a tremendous job in creating the movements for Chappie, as well as providing the voice for him. After receiving his AI program, Chappie behaves like a curious child, then slowly evolves into something that becomes smarter each day while maintaining a certain level of naivety, which adds to his charm. Credit goes to Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell for creating a great non-human character that is so lovable and relatable.
Dev Patel and Hugh Jackman also deserve some kudos for their roles as Chappie's creator Deon and his rival Vincent respectively. Patel gives the right balance of ambition and conscience to his role while Jackman is clearly enjoying playing the bad guy here, who will stop at nothing to destroy Deon's robots so that he can market his own robot. Sigourney Weaver doesn't get much to do here as company boss Michelle Bradley though, it's a role anyone else could have done.
I can't write this review without mentioning the contribution of Ninja and Yolandi Visser from hip hop group Die Antwoord, who play two of the gangbangers that kidnap Deon and the robot that becomes Chappie. The duo essentially become Chappie's parents, with Yolandi teaching him all the good qualities of a human like a mother would, while Ninja trains him to be a badass and imparts toughness and violence to him as a father. This leads to some very hilarious moments, watch how he teaches Chappie to steal a car. Awesome. Anyway, the duo have no prior acting experience, but they do very well here as the criminals who end up being the people that shape Chappie's personality and behavior. The duo also provide some of the music for the film, supporting Hans Zimmer's great score.
As good as the film is, with some very well shot action sequences (especially the one at the end), the final 10 minutes may require some suspension of disbelief. I wouldn't say it's totally ridiculous, but Blomkamp may have tried a bit too hard to tie up his story in one neat little bow here, when a slightly less ambitious route would have sufficed.
All in all, Chappie is an entertaining film that is a clear step up from Elysium and a step below from District 9. Here's hoping his upcoming Alien project blows everyone away. (8/10)