AM At The Movies: ‘Chappie’

Above: Neill Blomkamp's 'Chappie' is a complete mess
Above: Neill Blomkamp's 'Chappie' is a complete mess

Neill Blomkamp’s third effort really is all over the place.

It’s an amalgamation of RoboCop and Short Circuit mixed with elements of his previous two films, District 9 and Elysium, that takes an unnecessary turn into being smaller scale version of an over-the-top Michael Bay action flick near the end.

The story follows a beaten up Scout, one of the numerous police robots that that have cleaned up much of the crime in 2016 Johannesburg, that is reprogrammed to be sentient by it’s creator, Deon Wilson, played by Dev Patel in what is pretty much the robotics engineer version of his character from The Newsroom, right down to the way he likes to chew on his pen at his desk. Rather than getting to see what his new robot can learn and eventually do, Deon is kidnapped by a trio of mid-level thugs that believe he can turn off the the Scouts.

After explaining that can’t just shut down the Scouts, Deon offers a compromise – the hoodlums can have his refurbished sentient Scout for themselves. From there, things get messy. It’s impossible to pinpoint what Blomkamp is trying to say because it feels like he’s saying 47 different things and nothing at all at the exact same time.

This movie fails because rather than picking a lane and sticking to it, Chappie keeps playing hopscotch, jumping from space to space, picking up bits and pieces from different films and never really becoming anything unique and concrete.

It’s hard to criticize the performance because no one is given much to work with.

Patel is a good, young actor, but he’s an archetype here, nothing more. He’s the ultra-smart, conservative guy that gets bullied and picked on because he’s idealistic and an easy mark. He’s a computer nerd, right down to the household robot that does chores for him like fetching him Red Bull for his all-night programming sessions.

Frequent Blomkamp collaborator Sharlto Copley plays the titular robot and deserves some credit for making the machine seem human. Unfortunately,Chappie is basically a 13-year-old child that floats between wanting to please it’s parents and wanting the cool kids to like him. Those kids are kind of annoying and so is Chappie.

Two of the three mid-level hoodlums are Yo-Landi Visser and Ninja of the band Die Antwoord. Apparently Blomkamp is a huge fan and always wanted to get them in one of his movies. They’re here alright and they too are tough to digest.

Hugh Jackman plays a rival robotics engineer with a military background whose work has been passed over in favour of the Scouts. He spends the entire movie being the bitter, jealous co-worker on the cusp of going mental until he’s given the go-ahead to use his own massive robot police vehicle, The Moose, at which point he pretty much goes mental.

There is juast way too much going on in Chappie for it to be successful.

It’s doing too much, just like the Fireball-primed bro that ends up shirtless, bleeding and smelling like barf, sleeping on your couch and drinking all your Gatorade in the morning, wondering why you’re so mad?

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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