Director: Neill Blomkamp
Stars: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel,, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo
Set in South Africa, crime is now controlled by robot police officers (or robocops). However, the lead programmer is searching for something more than simply providing law enforcement and weapons, so when he finds a way to program a true artificial intelligence into a broken droid he goes against the wishes of his superiors. The result is Chappie (Copley), who ends up being raised by gangsters. Meanwhile another programmer is looking to sabotage the droid program so he can get his own project off the ground.
CHAPPiE is a pastiche of other sci-fi movies so if you’re well-versed in the genre there probably isn’t that much new ground covered here. But the themes are becoming more relevant and there seems to have been a string of movies about artificial intelligences released over the last six months or so. I generally like the concepts it explores and I felt it accomplished its goal at looking at the nature of consciousness and what makes a person a person. It also touched on nature vs nurture and delved a bit into the psychology of human development, as Chappie served as a microcosm for the journey from childhood to adulthood.
I felt the human presences were good contrasts. Deon (Patel) was the well-meaning ideological ‘maker’, but the main influences to Chappie’s development were Ninja (Ninja) and Yolandi (Visser). The mother-son relationship was touching and the father-son was dramatic bordering on abusive. Blomkamp didn’t shy away from creating some visceral scenes, and even though Chappie is ‘only’ a robot I found myself wincing and cringing in horror at some of the things he had to endure.
Jackman’s storyline was okay although I felt his motivations were still a little unclear. I was unsure if he was purely motivated by greed and jealously or if there was something deeper going in, because at points he seemed to be coming at it from a religious angle too but I didn’t think it was made explicit enough.
I felt the humour wasn’t handled as well as it could have been. Chappie learning how to talk and act like a gangster grew old fast so some of the film felt repetitive and it does drag in places. That said, the climax was immensely satisfying, heartfelt, and touching and I’m not sure it could have ended any more perfectly. If you like films that explore the nature of artificial intelligence as well as our own consciousness then I think you’ll like CHAPPiE.