‘Chappie’ (Blu-ray) Review

chappie fullEvery year of movies seems to have a dominant theme. Half way through the year, it seems the focus is on artificial intelligence. It’s well documented on the site of our fervent love for Alex Garland‘s Ex Machina that so eloquently dealt with the matter of A.I. and humanity’s coexistence (read Brad’s interview with Alex review). But just like the titular android, it’s a flawed yet misunderstood piece worthy of reinspection.

Part of the negative reception likely has to do with Blomkamp gaining a high appraisal after his directorial debut District 9 and since then has disappointed with Elysium and now this project that didn’t quite fulfill it’s potential. That being said, this is still an improvement over his sophomore effort but certainly questions if Blomkamp got lucky with his first sci-fi classic. I mentioned how this was the first A.I. film of the year, and while that is true, it’s also a misconception because its use of artificial intelligence is just a stepping stone to move the rest of the narrative into more directions. But for every positive in Chappie, there seems to be an equal amount pulling the film backwards.

I applaud Blomkamp for moving past the inception of the artificial intelligence Deon (Dev Patel) creates, moving towards more of a contrast against human intelligence. To that point, getting to the point where the film begins examining the possibility of understanding consciousness. But as he leapfrogs from one topic to the other, there’s a lot of nothing in between. Blomkamp attempts to create his own Thunderdome, unique to near-future Johannesburg, South Africa without giving due cause. From the dystopian atmosphere being ruled by leather clad thugs and overall destruction of the city, it seems reminiscent of George Miller‘s world of Mad Max but without any visual flair or need since very little is built from this world. As great as this would seem considering our collective love for Mad Max: Fury Road, Blomkamp seems to call it quits at ideas.

[amz asin=”B00UC9SOKW” size=”small”]There’s something behind the initial script that was of some attraction considering the level of talent it attracted in Sharlto Copley as the voice of Chappie and Hugh Jackman as Deon’s rival engineer working on a competing robot policing project under the control of Sigourney Weaver as the company CEO. Like everything else in the film, Jackman’s character has some promise as a contrast of humanity with Deon, but both offer a shallow representation of “good” and “evil”, and in turn their ideas of A.I. and robotics are questionable.

Neither give a very good performance either, and Weaver seems to be there solely because it’s a science fiction film — she’s hardly given a surmountable role worth investigating. But like the rest of Blomkamp’s short filmography, he pulls the best out of his unknown actors, including Yo-Landi Visser and Brandon Auret (like Copley, has appeared in each Blomkamp film) as Chappie’s “Mommy” and “Daddy” but the best performance certainly comes from Copley’s motion-capture performance.

The animation of Chappie is quite impressive, but at this point, what big-budget film can’t boast that? Copley at least brings him to life, adding empathy to an android that’s anything but human opposed to Alicia Vikander‘s Ava in Ex Machina. But I can’t complain how Chappie turned out, his form is certainly unique and you can take a look at what other designs were considered in the Blu-ray’s “The Art of Chappie Gallery“. The Blu-ray also offers an inside look into the stunts, and special and visual effects “Rogue Robot” and “Bringing Chappie to Life“. Both of which are interesting processes, but yet again, nothing dissimilar from other CGI clad films. But the most interesting feature included on the Blu-ray is the alternate ending in which we see an army of Chappie’s being formed after Chappie cracks the cipher of consciousness.

After watching the film, the ending that made the final cut was certainly the right choice, but the alternate choice embodies the feelings I have surrounding the rest of Chappie. It poses a lot of questions and has an equal amount to say, but simultaneously has a confused stance on everything it aims to say. But it partially succeeds as a sci-fi film, as it provides something for the audience to leave with, and I can be content with that. Hopefully Blomkamp can fully redeem himself with his Alien sequel, but he has quite the uphill battle ahead of him.

[amz asin=”B00UC9SOKW” size=”large”]


Marvel and DC