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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Movie Review- Chappie

Yolandi Visser, Ninja, Jose Pablo Cantilio, and Sharlto Copley as Chappie, in Chappie

 
Although relatively new to big budget productions, director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) has breathed some life into the science-fiction genre. As someone who is close to his age, I understand his perspective on filmmaking. He grew up in the 1980's, and you can see the influence that it had on him. That sense of action mixed with a well placed amount of gore, makes his films fun to watch. Regardless of how serious his films can get at times, I still somehow feel like a third party, witnessing the events unfolding in front of me, through the eyes of a child. I can best sum up his films like this; They resemble that feeling I had as a kid, playing with my action figures. Coming up with scenarios, speaking with cheesy dialogue, blowing up everything, and leaving a wake of carnage, that would repeat the next day and so forth. Blomkamp's films are an adult's version of boyhood playtime, but with a South African twist. Now that might not work for some people, or may even seem repetitive after awhile but, Mr. Blomkamp still has my attention.

My Movie Review- Blomkamp's third full length film, Chappie (based on his 2004 short film, Tetra Vaal), is probably his most 80's influenced film yet. It's also his third best film (so far). How obvious its comparisons to 80's sci-fi films is, depends on who's watching it. From the get go, I immediately noticed a multitude of parallels to the original Robocop. The ideas, the storyline, the imagery, Hugh Jackman's (Prisoners) villain, were all similar to that film. Now, in our current climate of limited original movie ideas, it's perfectly rational to use pre-established ideas and tweak them a bit. When it's not acceptable, is when it's blatantly in your face. The film's other strong similarity, is of the Chappie character himself. Wonderfully voiced by Sharlto Copley (The A-Team), Chappie is a South African version of Johnny Five from the 1986 film, Short Circuit. Watch that film and its 1988 sequel, and you will see exactly what I'm talking about. But because of Blomkamp's colorful characters (not all, but some) and visual style, I can let this one go. For me, this movie works because even with the story copying, it still has its own distinctive feeling. We've seen an animatronic character become sentient before (A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, "I, Robot") but, Chappie adds a little something to the mix. 

The characters involved don't get much in the way of development or depth but, they serve their purpose for the most part, which is to move Chappie the robot forward. Of course, he doesn't evolve a whole lot during the film. He more or less goes from a mimicking parrot to a manipulated child. Luckily it's interesting to watch him as he repeats phrases incorrectly with Copley's accent and trusts blindly like an innocent. I just wish there could have been more for him to strive for than there was. Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) as Chappie's creator and Sigourney Weaver (Aliens) as his boss, are given little to no real amount of importance. Jackman plays an unexplored baddie that does the job, but only really has one memorable scene. Aside from Chappie, the film's best characters are from Ninja and Yolandi Visser of the South African gangsta rap group, Die Antwoord. Not the greatest of actors but, they bring a goofy style that's not normally seen in mainstream films like this. Take everything said, add Hans Zimmer's (The Dark Knight) cool score, some R-rated action, and a childlike sense of humor, what you get is an uneven but ultimately fun movie.


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Chappie

The Good- The gangsta training montage and following scenes- damned hilarious!

The Bad- Among the other films mentioned, this movie also has to copy the ending similar to Avatar's. Would have been better to have just left that one alone.

The Ugly- It's funny how quickly the major critics out there can change on a person. They all loved District 9 just because it was different. Well guess what? That wasn't a completely original film (V, Enemy Mine, and Alien Nation, were already made by then), nor the best sci-fi movie of that year (Star Trek 2009). But Elysium and Chappie didn't live up to their unreasonably high expectations so, I guess Blomkamp is just another momentary golden boy for them to discard like those sad Prawns and impoverished humans from his films.


Final Thoughts on Chappie

Though not Blomkamp's best work, Chappie is still a cool/funny movie with a little bit of heart. Worth seeing on the big screen especially if you're a fan of his previous works. It's kind of cool to see what has transpired from his short films from the 2000's. Look them up on YouTube if you get a chance.
Rating- 7 out of 10

Running Time- 120 Minutes
Science Fiction/Drama


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