<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Neill Blomkamp. Starring Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Ninja, Yolandi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman
This rip-off of the 1986 film Short Circuit is terribly flawed and poorly produced. The fact that it is so very South African doesn’t help it much either.
There are directors who you can tell have made a movie just by looking at the film they’ve made without having seen the credits. Neill Blomkamp is one of those peculiar personalities just like Wes Anderson is. For one thing you get a lot of South African elements and accents in his films. And there’s lots of violence too. His District 9 was an interesting sci-fi thriller about aliens who land on earth only to be colonised and segregated from humanity like outcasts. In Chappie, the outcast is a police robot that is given the programming of a child’s mind so he can learn and ‘feel’.
I have to say that when I first saw the trailer of the film I immediately thought about Short Circuit. It was a cult film in the 80s about a military robot that was struck by lightning and became ‘alive’! It was followed up with a sequel and in both the films the robot (Johnny number 5!) develops feelings and is used by the ‘bad guys’ and ends up taking a bit of his own revenge. In fact, in the second film he turns all punk and mouths gangster-style cuss words. Hmmm… sounds familiar doesn’t it Chappie?
In the film, the scout police robots are made by Dev Patel’s character Deon Wilson who isn’t satisfied with his creations and within the first 15 minutes of the movie he’s programmed a way to give the robots a conscience. But his archrival and colleague at the industrial weapons corporation run by Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) is Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) who has built his own robot warrior that unfortunately no one wants. The robot in question is called Moose and looks terribly similar to the bad robot Enforcement Droid from the RoboCop films.
Thankfully, Chappie (Sharlto Copley and I’m assuming he’s not in the robot suit but just the voice or the motion capture guy) the sentient robot doesn’t end up staying with Dev Patel’s ‘creator’ since he would have turned out exceptionally dumb. Instead he falls in the hands of Ninja and Yolandi (played by Ninja and Yolandi Visser of a South African pop-music band called Die Antwoord) and Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo), a gang of drug runners who need to pull off a big heist and need some help doing it since the robot police force would inevitably stop them.
The horrendous South African accents will have your ears feeling like they’re being mauled by tigers and that Chappie learns to speak it isn’t very helpful in making him endearing to the viewers. Yolandi takes on a mother-figure role to Chappie, which at times is heart-warming but at others is damn right ridiculous. How can you take these characters seriously? They’re running about in boxer shorts, with Ice watches, fringed hair and neon machine guns.
Is Hugh Jackman really Wolverine. Surely he’s been paid enough money for all the X-Men films that he doesn’t need to take up B-grade roles like this. Poor Sigourney Weaver has unfortunately been typecast and now awaits Blomkamps sequel to the Alien saga. Oh what a mess he’ll make of it and how we pray James Cameron steps in and says, “No way you ugly bitch!”
If Chappie were made by say James Cameron it would have turned out a lot different and probably a lot better. Sure this Chappie has some gritty violence and a raw edge about it but does it do anything for the plot or the premise, I don’t think so.