Cinema-Maniac: Chappie (2015) Review

Neill Blomkamp debut film, District 9, I would vouch for being a sci-fi classic. While there was nothing subtle about it central theme it had a refreshing approach to storytelling. District 9 brought, and put Neill Blomkamp on my radar eagerly anticipating his next film. Elysium was a bad film aside from being unsubtle again, it was heavy handed in its message delivery, had weak writing, advance technology used in illogical ways, and badly edited action scenes. It was a disappointment regardless, in particular the writing as Blomkamp simply rewrote District 9 storyline into Elysium with minor changes. This same formula didn’t work the second time around. Now comes in Chappie, a film I anticipated since I see potential in Neill Blomkamp to make many great movies, and tell more engaging stories. When reading a synopsis for the film Chappie I had no interest in it, but with Neill Blomkamp named attached to it I was sold. What I didn’t expect after finishing viewing Chappie for it to have become one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.

Chappie is set in the near future, crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. If you think the premise sounds high concept enough to carry an entire movie you are absolutely correct, but this is Chappie. Where words like sense, reason, or depth are absent from the writing before the first act even finishes. Nope, all it took for me to predict most of the story was the second time Hugh Jackman character, Vincent Moore (the villain), appears on screen in a such unsubtle way about its own execution was then made into a dreadful experience. Here’s the main problem, regardless of how many films, and formulas you’ve been exposed too Chappie is all over the place with its own ideas wanting to be shared. That it does not even obtain enough working pieces to be a bad functional story. An immediate issue with the film are its characters.

First, we have Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) who we’re told on the news is a genius for creating police robots, and within the first twenty minutes of the movie creates a brand new A.I. that thinks like a human. Yet, this same genius can phantom the simple idea of calling the police when a group of gangsters kidnap him, and steal a defunct robot he helped bring back to functioning order with his newly created A.I.. It would be understandable if Deon didn’t contact the authority if any of the following were used in the film.

A.) Didn’t make Deon such a highly profile figure that the company he works for puts a picture of him on their website when listing the police robots inventor. Therefore, Deon world suddenly turning upside down wouldn’t be telegraphed to viewers.

B.) Human police officers opposing full robotic police forces if it put them out of jobs creating a disdain for Deon. This isn’t the case as humans police officers still work in this dangerous line of work. Also, there’s no mention of human police officers opposing these robots so there’s clearly no hatred for Deon from officers.

C.) If the gang that captured Deon consisted of more than three people. Not only is that a small number, but take into account none of the gang members that captures Deon are presented as smart individuals. If one of the gang member was a computer expert who can keep Deon in line by a number of means like blocking his signal if he attempts to call the police, threaten to bankrupt Deon and his entire family, or even incriminate Deon.

D.) If Vincent Moore (the villain) hired the gangsters, and pretended in aiding Deon in securing Deon life. Deon is given no reason to distrust Vincent Moore before his kidnapping so this would have given Vincent Moore an opportunity to incriminate Deon by taking pictures of him interacting with the gangsters, and a stolen police robot. Fabricating a lie to his boss that Deon deliberately stole a police robot, and is now working with them in unknown criminal acts under their noses. Therefore getting his project funded, and it becoming fully operational.

E.) If one of the gangster made a bluff that they have someone surveilling Deon every minute of the day. Deon is clearly in no position to hold his own against the gangsters, and him knowing his invention puts an end to their criminal acts would make him more likely to believe the bluff.

F.) The police was corrupt. Any level of mention alluding to corrupt police forces would have solved the issue as to why Deon does not call the police.

To add insult to Deon “genius” mind is the fact the gangsters don’t even hold him hostage nor is one gangster place on him to keep an eye out for his activity. He manages to escape successfully with his life, and instead of calling the authority, or telling anyone his busted police robot got stolen, and he was forced to install his new A.I. in said robot. Deon instead gets items in order to teach Chappie. This whole negligence of Deon refusing to call the police ruins the film, and leads to stating the obvious. If Deon contacted the police after escaping his kidnappers than the film story would have never happened. Who knows how many thousands of lives, and possibly millions dollars of damage would have been prevented if Deon simply, called the police. In case you’re wondering about the shortage of human police officer it is revealed at the end of the movie there were exactly 150,000 reserved human forces!

Secondly, Vincent Moore is nullified as a character. He brings up a valid point of giving robots the ability to think for themselves. In a much better film Vincent Moore character would have been challenged intellectually on his issues instead of being painted as a villain. Unlike Neill Blomkamp previous films there’s no politics involved in Chappie which is the first red flag of the film. Moving along though, with no politics Vincent Moore is written to do devious things in order to make the audience hate him, except he still has a point. His solution to create a giant killing machine, and control it himself is rejected by several other in the film, but never once is Deon questioned for his creation. What this does is undermined a reasonable concerned by turning it into a game of good vs evil instead. Can’t forget, Vincent Moore unfortunately suffers from the “Obviously Evil Bad Guy” syndrome. These kind of villains are good, but when place in a serious a film they all fail the same way. Immediately upon being introduced they have “Obviously Evil Bad Guy” written on them wanting you to take them seriously even though they belong better in a B movie due to how they act, and talk.

Third, the gangsters characters are all terrible people. We have Ninja from Die Antwoord played by Watkin Tudor Jones, but better known as Ninja. So Ninja in the film takes Chappie to a meeting at a sketchy place with a group of gangsters, and leaves Chappie alone with some gangsters that actually hurt a police robot. Once Chappie comes home from his lovely time with those gangsters, and a detour Ninja sees Chappie beaten with a missing arm and Ninja says “I didn’t know this would happen”. REALLY! LEAVING A POLICE ROBOT WITH THE A.I. OF A CHILD IN THE STREETS WITH A GROUP OF GANGSTERS, AND YOU DID NOT, AT ANY POINT, EXPECT THIS TO HAPPEN! YOU’RE IN THIS PROFESSION!

Ninja is sadly the leader of the gang that this film focuses on. The other members are Yo-Landi (played by Yolandi Visser), and Yankie (played by Jose Pablo Cantillo). That’s the entire gang consisting of three people don’t exactly spell intimidation especially when none of them specializes in anything. Seriously, one could have been the hacker, one could have been a veteran, one could have been a loose canon, one could have been righteous, and so many other traits. In this film it lumps all three gangsters together. They are also unlikable. Ninja for instance, wants to use Chappie for his heist so he lies to Chappie to steal cars, and teaches him the thug life. Best part, the film expects you to care feel for Ninja despite all he has done to Chappie.

Then there’s Yo-Landi who is meant to be a mother figure who just does nothing. She’s written to be motherly, but not act like it. Despite her insistence Chappie not be put in danger she doesn’t stand up to Ninja when she disagrees with him. Even after Chappie experiences the loss of an arm showing concern for him even though he’s a robot. This does not make Yo-Landi a good person as she later goes on to take part in a heist, and shooting without a concern for human life. She doesn’t change in any way as she is still willing to take part of a crime, and doesn’t look on her criminal lifestyle any differently. Then, there’s Yankie who is just in the movie. He’s not developed like the entire cast. His main purpose is to be the middle guy. Someone who sees both sides, but the film does nothing with this characters simply going through the motion of events. He doesn’t take an initiative in voicing his thoughts be content sitting in the background.

Finally, Chappie is an unsympathetic character. Virtually every single person he comes across in the film that isn’t Deon mistreats him. For some reason, the film decided to give him the mind of a child, yet this is not enough to counteract the fact he helps steal cars, and willfully hurts people in the film. Instead of seeing Chappie act as like this was some sort of game, Chappie views his ordeals in a inconsistent mindset. For starter, when told his battery is unable to get change instead of throwing a child tantrum Chappie insteads react violently as an adult choking Ninja. Another miscalculation in the script. There’s a scene where Chappie clearly understands killing, but through a lesson from Ninja thinks he’s making people fall asleep instead of killing. So this robot understands the meaning of pain, yet that does not influence him in his decision to take part of a heist. Nor it is use this as a plot point to at least see Chappie think out about actions.

Tips and Steps to write a Neill Blomkamp Film:

1.) Make the film villain a white, psychopathic mercenary from South Africa.

2.) Set it in South Africa. More favorably if it is in the slums.

3.) Make sure you’re leading character changes into something different by the end of the film.

4.) Former Regime Personnel are inhumane and nigh-unstoppable major foes.

5.) Write in someone getting blown up at some point, and highlight it

6.) Cast Sharlto Copley

7.) Cinemtraphopher must be Trent Opaloch

One last thing, the film has incredible leap of logic regarding supercomputers. Now this is set in the future, so how come Sony Computer Entertainment game console Playstation 4 is used to make a super computer. It’s a video game console specifically created to play video games. I should know I played every single Sony video game console at some point, and even owned the home consoles. So, I can’t make fun of this aspect of the film. I kid you not, I hate looking at specs of any hardware because it reads like Binary coding to me, but yes, several Playstation 4 hooked up together to make a supercomputer is actually possible. The Playstation 4 processing power is delivered in a System-on-Chip design with eight AMD CPU cores and 18 AMD Radeon Graphics Core Next (GCN) compute units, typically used to process all the software, games, videos, and motion sensor capabilities that enable players to interact with others through online services. Even more impressive, the same compute architectures found in the PlayStation 4 really are powering some of today’s supercomputer clusters. (This paragraph not brought to you by Sony™.)

However, it is still blatant product placement, and without an explanation to explain this is not a work fiction. Viewers will simply laugh at this aspect in the film, even though it is technically possible. It was possible with exactly 1,760 less powerful Playstation 3 to make a supercomputer which actually happened. Then, there’s the capturing of human consciousness into data. Chappie didn’t bother explaining how it’s actually possible to make Playstation 4 into supercomputers so why would it bother explaining how one can capture human consciousness, and fit it all on a flashdrive.

Dev Patel plays Deon, our “smart intelligent genius” protagonist of the film. Dev Patel doesn’t have a meaty role in Chappie. Lacking genuine concern in his vocal delivery thinking shouting is the same as emoting. He shouts frequently in the film in nearly every scene, but a bigger issue is his lack of chemistry towards the entire cast. None of it feels believable. Mostly in part due to the fact his interaction with the human cast lacking the range compare to when Dev Patel interacts with a CG/Practical effect suit weary Sharlto Copley. Patel is unable to make any scene feel genuine of any emotion.

Unlike Patel, Sharlto Copely was able to make some scenes work despite his limitation not just with the material, but a serious lack of any facial feature. Copely body movements is never robotic in the film moving like a human. However, scenes when Copely has to display a beaten up or scare Chappie work because of his body movements. Sadly, whenever Copely isn’t allowed to express the more vulnerable side of his characters the restraint are shown. It seems phoned in as most of his line delivery as done in the same manner of a child. Instead of feeling bad for Chappie when he’s lie too you end up wanting to punch Chappie full aware of the damage to your own hands to make him shut up.

Two of the most talented actors in the cast, Hugh Jackman, and Sigourney Weaver are given thankless roles. Sigourney Weaver has little screen time, and no bearing on the plot that her role could have been filled by any other actor, and not have turned out differently. Whenever Sigourney Weaver is onscreen she spout concern or greedy CEO dialogue that leaves little to the imagination. It’s a disappointing performance to see given the talent involved. Next, Hugh Jackman whose only meant to fit his antagonistic role aesthetically. Hugh Jackman simply looks evil in the film compare to the rest of the film cast. He’s bulky, foreign, and has an accent which has the making of lazy writers. Jackman doesn’t have much to do either besides appearing suspicious, and angry in his scenes. If Hugh Jackman went over the top it would have been fun seeing his simple character on screen, but with a realistic direction he is not allowed to make the character his own. The script undermines the performances of both Hugh Jackman, and Sigourney Weaver can bring to a film.

The remainder of the film cast is less encouraging. Instead finding great talent in the likes of Watkin Tudor Jones, Yolandi Visser, and Jose Pablo Cantillo it gives three perfectly good reasons why Hugh Jackman, and Sigourney Weaver deserved bigger roles. Jose Pablo Cantillo is the least harmful from the three since his character isn’t meant to be sympathetic. So when Jose plays his character he does not have any complexity to display. His co-stars do have too, which makes them their lack of acting experience that much more noticeable. Watkin Tudor sticks to acting gangsta, with only knowledge of the rough side to be filmed. Tudor lacks range to make his character likable. Whenever Tudor says anything remotely mean, and mean spirited he sells it like a person you want to punch. However, his character is meant to be sympathetic so his lack of charisma hurts his character. Whenever appearing nice it simply hurts the intention of his character. Yolandi Visser doesn’t fare any better suffering from similar issues. Opting for a bubbly portrayal of her character. She has neither the psyche (like the previous two actors) to be intimidating, or even sell the idea she’s living the gang life.

Finally, the music by Hans Zimmer is awful. Just awful. Every single time dubstep was misused, and sounds like a collection of noise than actual music. It was annoying throughout the film. Special effects we’re well done, but went to waste under a bad script. Fueling realistic special effects to a very, dislikable lead. The action scenes in the beginning of the film is well done, and nicely shot. Sadly, the film lacks action afterwards for over an hour until it reaches the climax which by then has failed to provide engaging characters, or rising action. There’s nothing to care for on screen despite a seeing a robot shooting dozen of gangsters in a single area, and blowing up parts of it.

Chappie is the first film where I had to pause the film halfway through, and take pain reliever. That has never happened before in any film I’ve seen. This, is the first time, I ever had to take any sort of medicine because of how bad a movie was. It was so bad, it caused a migraine. Everything I saw on screen was so unpleasant to my body it physically hurt it. Thankfully, the worst it got for me while viewing Chappie was a severe headache.

Chappie is a total mess of filmmaking. Nothing about the film works, has a clear point, or a purpose. It’s confused in every single aspect of the word film. It’s the only film I have review, as of now, that has given me a migraine. It’s the first film I needed to take medicine for in order to complete. It does not entertain. It does provoke a thoughtful discussion. It does not offer anything unique. It does take away allot from the viewer, and rewards them with nothing. Except in my case it gave me a severe headache.


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