Neil Blomkamp has always been a director I’ve admired, famous mostly for his smash-hit: ‘District 9’ in 2012, shortly then followed by his second film: ‘Elysium’ which split many sci-fi fans down the middle. He’s always managed to impress me through his incredible use of CGI and explosive action set pieces. However, I’ve always found his narratives to be kind of lack-luster, and this is definitely where the main issue lies with his third film: ‘Chappie’.
The story begins in the near future, as 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. ‘Chappie’ then begins to explore and fully realize the chaotic world he has now become a part of.
I find the initial idea very interesting, coming off as kind of a mixture between ‘Robocop’ and ‘Short Circuit’ and I think the film could’ve been very entertaining if they would’ve chose to explore these ideas of synthetic life vs. actual living consciousness. Unfortunately, the direction the film actually goes is far from it. As we see ‘Chappie’ enter the world of crime alongside an unlikable criminal gang, making the film less like an interesting sci-fi film and more along the lines of a straight crime thriller. Now with a less-likable protagonist.
Sharlto Coply, Deon Wilson, Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver all give decent performances in the film, and while I would’ve preferred Sigourney Weaver to have a bigger role in the overall narrative. I feel Sharlto Coply as ‘Chappie’ and Hugh Jackman as the villain of the film: ‘Vincent Moore’ were both great in their respective roles. However, in easily one of the worst decisions in the film. The band: Die Antwoord portray some of the main protagonists (with their own names for some reason), and aside from their poor acting here, they also come off as very unlikable throughout. Insuring the audience roots for the criminal gang even less than they already did.
Trent Opaloch handles the cinematography in the film, which is pretty good for the most part, however as similar to the rest of Blomkamp’s films, there is far too much use of hand-held camera. When in the action scenes I find this fine, when it comes to some of the dialogue heavy scenes or crucial story moments, I find it very distracting. The CGI effects are also georgous here, every effect having weight to it and truly feeling like a part of the scene flawlessly. This is especially clear with the CGI on ‘Chappie’ himself.
The original score by Hanz Zimmer is phenomenal as per usual, combing a typical sci-fi soundtrack alongside a more gritty crime score. Fitting the film perfectly, and really adding tension to many of the scenes throughout the run-time. I also like the sound design in this film, most sci-fi flicks usually have decent sound design. But here I feel it’s very well done.
More than likely just a personal thing, but I also feel the song choices in the film were very poor. Using much of the music of the band: Die Antwoord, it simply doesn’t fit with the pace or tone the film is going for. Plus the fact their characters share their own names as already mentioned, just makes the entire thing very confusing.
I’m still not entirely sure what I think of ‘Chappie’. While it definitely has many flaws, and is easily Neil Blomkamp’s worst film in my opinion. The film still has certain elements I still really enjoy, some of the cinematography, action scenes and CGI effects still impress me to this day, and truly show that Blomkamp still has an eye for visuals. But his storytelling really does need to show improvement, and I hope he gets another shot at directing again at some-point. Unfortunately this one is a 4/10 for now.