District 9 and Elysium director Neill Blomkamp is back with an all-new original piece of sci-fi titled Chappie. Chappie is easily Blomkamp’s worst film yet, bringing forward the notion that perhaps the D9 director isn’t as great as many have thought? Chappie is a weird mess; a noble failure that shoots off in all directions and rarely has a fully cooked thought. The special effects are impressive, but the acting and writing are rough and weak, while the direction remains muddled and without a solid focus. Chappie is junk that should have never passed the beta stages.
Chappie (voiced by Sharlto Copley) is a robot with a brain. His creator Deon (Dev Patel) made Chappie special, building him with a new software that gives him consciousness, which makes a true form of next-level evolution when compared to other robots that Deon built to simply follow orders from human police officers.
Now, Chappie slowly builds thoughts and processes of his own, which proves to be extremely dangerous when put into the hands of gang members like Ninja and Yolandi (played by the popular South African band Die Antwoord).
Neill Blomkamp‘s Chappie is mess from its roots. Blomkamp’s writing and directing skills are the front-runners of disaster for his latest film, which reveals more and more about Blomkamp as a flawed filmmaker with two good films under his belt. District 9 introduced us to a brand-new world of sci-fi and took us to places that Hollywood never thought were possible from a studio release. Elysium only took those themes and traits to even higher grounds, proving that Blomkamp’s success wasn’t a fluke and even adding a budget and some big name stars.
Chappie downplays on all of that in an aggressively backwards way. It tries recreating D9 almost play-for-play during the film’s opening minutes, only to expose its emptiness. Chappie will sometimes try to trick audience members by showing moments of raw emotion and Blomkamp’s true intentions, but then it backpedals and gets caught in its own messy script that is led by Die Antwoord members with absolute stiff acting that can barely be understood, even if subtitles were turned on.
Why Blomkamp decided to put the weight of his latest sci-fi picture onto two nobodies is a big question that never gets answered. Dev Patel and Hugh Jackman try to give their secondary characters some depth and weight, but none of that really matters when the core story is left resting on Die Antwoord and their complete lack of any sense given to the film at hand.
Chappie‘s motives jump back and forth and never settle on a theme or focus, giving us a movie that’s sometimes serious, mostly not funny and occasionally violent. The action never holds up and the emotional depth rarely digs deeper than a small handful.
The script presents ideas that are definitely cool on paper, but go nowhere once Blomkamp starts shooting random scenes that make little sense. Why does Chappie fear things before he even knows what fear is? Why does the film spend so much time showing Chappie grow and learn, yet miss such basic steps?
Why does the film start out with interviews and future footage, only to never revisit those moments or express their importance at a later time?
Clearly the film is trying too hard to be another District 9, without having an original idea of its own to move forward with. Lots of people complained that Elysium was too much like District 9 and while I agree that Blomkamp’s visual style is similar, I must argue that Elysium is an entirely different movie that shows the filmmakers progression and not his constant re-usual of past camera tricks or storytelling methods.
Chappie constantly borrows more than style from D9, while never explaining why. The special effects are downright amazing and a true example of the tech that can be achieved on films, yet the story suffers and suffers, barely limping across the finish line.
Chappie is better than those misleading and confusing first trailers that painted the film to be some sort of motivational uprising robot movie, yet that increased quality only makes the eventual blow sting that much more, because Blomkamp drops the ball and he drops it hard.
The script has the writings of a bipolar teenager obsessed with robo sci-fi, but not exactly sure why. It appears deep, but constantly refuses to dig and explore what those feelings and emotions mean, instead settling for half-cooked foolery that wastes more than the film’s production budget.
Chappie marks the first great failure from a director that has made two very solid and very entertaining pieces of science fiction. D9 definitely leans more on the smart side, why Elysium goes over-the-top and lands as an entertaining piece of R-rated cinema. Chappie is just a big dumb mess, rarely amounting to anything other than a giant piece of promotion for Die Antwoord and Neill Blomkamp‘s sizzle reel of special effects.
The film is cold, emotionless and far from entertaining or unique and hints that perhaps Blomkamp needs some more restraint as a director. I am looking forward to his new Aliens project, because previously established property with a script that is already finished might just be exactly what this man needs to once again tell a good story. He’s got an eye for special effects and has no problem shooting action, but his writing needs lots of work and his casting decisions have fizzled out.
Chappie – 6/10