Chappie movie full length review - A True Disappointment, I Expected A Lot More Considering Who Was Involved
It's hard leaving previous loyalties behind. I think we want to love Neil Blomkamp's work unconditionally.
I also think when most people saw the trailer for Chappie we saw that it was from the director of District 9 and we all started jumping up and down and there's nothing wrong with that. District 9 is awesome, one of the best science fiction movies ever made and although the reception of Elysium was mixed I found it to be a fun action/science fiction mix although it wasn't deep like District 9. I wasn't sure about Chappie as there seemed to be a disparity between negative critical reception but most of the crowd reports were positive. I decided to see Chappie and I couldn't have been more disappointed, this was probably the worst movie I saw last year.
*Minor Spoilers Ahead* The film starts with a documentary style telling of how police robots were created to control crime in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. These robots were created by the company Tetravaal and have been a resounding success. The chief developer for these robots was Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) and although the robots are selling well and his superior Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) is happy with their performance, Deon has been working on a side project. He has developed an artificial intelligence program and wants a chance to test it which is denied by Michelle. But Deon decides his program needs to be tested and he steals a damaged police model robot and tries to bring it to a secluded area for those purposes.
But he is intercepted by a group of gangsters Ninja (Ninja), Yolandi (Yolandi) and Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo) who have recently run afoul of a gang lord named Hippo and are in debt of $20 million. They take the robot, thinking that with the advantage of having a super soldier on their side plus perhaps inside info on the police, they'll be able to execute a heist to gain the money to pay off Hippo. Also important to know is that in the Tetravaal office is rival developer Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) who has developed a different prototype which is more keyed towards being aggressive, as opposed to Deon's more low-key and functional robots. Vincent doesn't like Deon and is looking for an edge to take Deon down.
When I talk about a movie that I didn't like, I try to get to the positives first, no matter how small they are. The locations are suitably dirty and gritty, the design of the robots is interesting and they're well animated (even though the MOOSE is basically a giant murder bot, it at least looked cool). I thought Sharlto Copley's vocal performance lent a lot to Chappie (he out-shined the rest of the cast despite never appearing on the screen as his performance of Chappie was not motion capture, the character was CGI). In terms of positives, that's about all I have.
The biggest problem with Chappie isn't the acting or the ideas the film was created around. The problem with Chappie is the predictability of the plot and the awful characters. Starting with the characters, there isn't a single likable one in the movie. Chappie is supposed to be our hero and you want to latch onto him but he's too much of a blank slate, he has little personality and he's being manipulated into doing awful things by awful people. Deon is compassionate towards Chappie but he's a wuss and even though he's dealing with dangerous people his expectations of both them and his creation are unrealistic and removed from reality. Yolandi is the closest of our gangster characters to being human but she knows what they're doing to Chappie is wrong and goes along with it. Ninja and Amerika aren't remotely decent people, they're essentially Chappie's abusive step-dads, beating him up and feeding him bullshit. When they face the inevitable turn towards redemption, it happens on a dime and I didn't buy it. Lastly, Vincent is just a cardboard cutout of an evil adversary and Michelle is just your typical corporate disapproving boss who delivers stock lines and is just a plot device.
The plot is completely predictable and when it deviates from formula it's dumb. The larger progression within the story, you can see coming after 20 minutes. When looking at the finer points of the story, I found myself either in complete disbelief or laughing. Chappie's intelligence jumps around rapidly, he can't understand that shooting or stabbing someone can cause death to believing he can solve the problem of life after death. Ninja, Yolandi and Amerika blindly believe that if they can come up with $20 million Hippo will let them go when it's clearly not about money. The fact that the design of Vincent's robot could be used for anything other than mass killings is a joke. It's the small things that made this movie so nonsensical to me that I couldn't take it seriously. The dialogue is also terrible.
I haven't talked about the acting but all you need to know is that even though this is a cast full of talented people, they can't overcome the lacklustre material. A lot was made of the performances or Ninja and Yolandi because they aren't actors by trade, they're rappers. I would agree they aren't very strong but they aren't as detrimental to Chappie as they have been made out to be, the movie is weak around them not vice versa.
When I heard Neil criticize himself for not spending enough time on Elysium's story, I was shocked. Elysium seems award worthy next to Chappie. I wanted this to be good, I didn't go in wanting to hate Chappie but it was what I described, a big disappointment. I hope Blomkamp can rebound from this, he's extremely talented but he's on a slide, let's hope it's short lived.