Saturday, March 7, 2015

Chappie Review

Neill Blomkamp is back with his third feature-length directorial effort! He first exploded onto the scene in 2009 with District 9, which was so well-liked that it even got an Oscar nomination for best picture. Sci-fi movies NEVER get nominated for best picture which is what makes that crazy. Then in 2013, Blomkamp delivered his second movie Elysium, which got less than favorable reviews. My thoughts on these two movies? Well. I'm not the best one to ask. I didn't see District 9 until recently, but it was a really interesting movie. And I haven't actually seen Elysium quite yet. However, Chappie is a movie that the trailers completely sold me on. In fact I loved the trailers so much that I considered Chappie my most anticipated movie from the first third of the year. The result? Hmmmmm.... not quite the movie I expected.  As you may have noticed, this movie is getting a lot of hate. If you are one of those people that walk out thinking that this movie is a pile of garbage, I totally understand where you are coming from. That said, despite the flaws in this, I actually still found this fairly entertaining.

Chappie is a movie about a slightly futuristic South Africa that has implemented a robotic police force to fight crime. Dev Patel, the creator of these robots, wants to take things a step further by creating an artificially intelligent robot that can think, learn, and grow mentally, thus being a lot more human than the current force of robots. On the flip-side of things, we have Hugh Jackman playing a character who is morally opposed to the idea of artificially intelligent robots and instead wants to implement this mega-robot that is completely controlled by humans, thus avoiding any chance of the robots taking over and destroying mankind like we've seen in countless movies. Original idea? Not really. But I was still really interested mainly because of the character of Chappie, which is the human-like robot that Dev Patel successfully creates. The trailers made Chappie look like this adorable robot that I would fall in love with just like I did with Baymax in Big Hero 6 a few months ago, albeit with the stakes and the action being upped significantly being that this is a movie for adults, not kids. I was down with a bit of been-there-done-that as long as I fell in love with Chappie and the cast pulled off great performances.

Here's the thing, though. This isn't the movie you would expect at all. Based on what I've described along with the trailers, you'd think that this is a Dev Patel and his human-like robot vs. Hugh Jackman and his human-controlled robot. That would bring with it a whole lot of interesting and potentially relevant themes about humanity and what not. This movie goes in a completely different direction that the trailers didn't advertise at all. I don't want to say too much, but the basic premise is that Chappie actually gets kidnapped, so to speak, by this gang who is in desperate need for some great luck due to threats by what's basically a rival gang. They try to train Chappie help them commit various crimes and heists in order to save their butts. Meanwhile Dev Patel is still trying to rescue Chappie so that he'll be trained right and Hugh Jackman of course is trying to implement his plan.

This is where a lot of people take issue with this movie. They wanted the cliche movie that we all wanted and expected. Yes, that movie would've been a great one. But do you know what, I still dug the direction that the movie went. No, it wasn't good robot vs. bad robot, but it did point out the often dark and twisted aspect of humanity. Sure it's all fine and dandy to raise your kids in the perfect world, but how often does that actually happen? You try to teach your kids to live right, but they have to deal with the real world and how corrupt it is. And yes, despite all the parents' efforts, sometimes the kids get caught up in gangs and whatnot. Sometimes they get shown a world of crime, drugs, and violence that they want to experiment with because they think current life is boring. Sometimes kids are deceived by people they consider to be their friends into doing things that they think are right, but are actually wrong. What do you do as parents when this starts to happen? On a similar note, though, parents aren't always perfect. They often have lessons to learn. And what about those friends? Is there room for redemption and change for them? These are the questions that Chappie discusses. We all thought is was going to be the typical good vs. evil story that has been rehashed a thousand times. But it's not. This has frustrated a lot of people, but I personally found it fascinating.

Before I close this already long review, I need to talk about the cast. The two big names in this cast of course are Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver. First off, Sigourney Weaver plays a very small role, so not much to say there. Hugh Jackman did have a fairly decent role, but in my opinion his character was very poorly written. Granted, he had a fun time with it, but he did things that no human being would ever do unless they simply had no soul. Sometimes that works, but in this one it didn't. Our real star in this is of course the robot Chappie, voiced by Charlto Copley. Based on the trailers, I hoped I was going to fall in love with Chappie and I did. I really felt for his character as he had to go through all the crap that he did. Most people that I've heard from that hated this movie did so because they think the movie spent too much time with the gang members that kidnapped Chappie, calling them horrible characters and terrible actors. I personally didn't mind them. The main two were played by Ninja and Yolandi from the band Antwoord. They kinda played themselves in this, which was weird. The female, Yolandi, was a very likable character in my opinion. Her male counterpart, Ninja, was the opposite for most of the movie, but in the end I didn't mind him. Finally we have Chappie's creator, Dev Patel. Sure, I would've liked more of him with Chappie, but in the end I was fine with what they did with his character.

In the end, Chappie wasn't the movie I was expecting it to be. I was expecting a cliche good vs. evil and I was excited for that because Chappie looked like an adorable, lovable robot going against a villain that had a very good reason for being against the A.I. robots. Instead I got a movie that took a good look at how twisted humanity can be. Most people didn't like the direction that Blomkamp and company took this and I can totally see where they are coming from. This movie does have it's flaws. It could've been a lot better. But I will be the one that stands out from the crowd to say that this is still an enjoyable movie. Chappie is as excellent and lovable that I thought he would be. What they did with his character was unexpected, but I bought into it. The duo from Die Antwoord do a better job than many are giving them credit for and Dev Patel is also great. They did waste Hugh Jackman's character, but ultimately that was my biggest complaint, not the story or the acting. If you like Neil Blomkamp's movies, I'd recommend that you still give this one a shot. You just may think this it's better than some people are saying. My grade for Chappie is an 8/10.

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