Sunday, 16 August 2015

CHAPPiE (2014)

Blomkamp is back to finish off his distopian futuristic sci-fi trilogy that started with 'District 9' and 'Elysium', only he's not because this isn't a trilogy, ha! But in all fairness you could be forgiven for thinking it was, like I say all three are set in distopian futures and feature aliens, robots and powered exoskeleton suits.

Right down to it, Blomkamp clearly watched 'Robocop' and 'Short Circuit' and decided to make a hybrid of the two, annnnd I'm done. No wait, surely that can't be it? come on, there's got to be more to it than that?! this is a Neill Blomkamp movie...oh no, no there isn't. Yes that's right, the movies plot is all about these state of the art robots that now enforce the law in South Africa, a country with no issues at all. These killer A.I. robots are so good they have slashed crime rates...errrmm...a lot. One of these robots gets hit hard in a takedown and is down to be recycled and destroyed basically, too much damage, but the creator (Deon) of these bots decides he wants to try out his new intelligence A.I. chip in this damaged unit. Alas company CEO Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) refuses his request, so guess what, he pinches the damaged bot and does it anyway with much success, only problem being he and his creation get taken hostage by some criminals who want the robot for their own naughty deeds.

So that is the 'Short Circuit' side of the plot. The other side to this plot involves a competing project headed by Aussie ex-soldier Vincent (Hugh Jackman). Now this fella wants his own killer robot project to be the main focus of law enforcement in South Africa and across the globe. So much so that he becomes very jealous of Deon and tries to sabotage him so his creation can have a chance to shine, sound familiar? Oh and his robot just so happens to look virtually identical to the infamous ED-209 robot, blatantly so, yep this is the 'Robocop' side of the plot. A bit shameful Mr Blomkamp.

Right so lets take this in stages, firstly the visuals. Yes, the visuals are slick as fuck, they look good...and dare I say, completely rehashed from Blomkamp's earlier movie 'Elysium'. Yes I'm not lying when I say you might see similarities between the robots in this movie and 'Elysium', in fact the're almost the identical. As a matter of fact, all of Blomkamp's movies do tend to look the same, the locations, the mood, the technology etc...just the general atmosphere and every detail within. Nevertheless the visuals are very nice, Chappie and his fellow robots do look great, highly realistic, highly detailed and with excellent motion capture. And as you can guess the world in which Chappie inhabits has virtually the same moody, gritty outlook as all Blomkamp's efforts. Did I mention the other robot (called MOOSE) looks like ED-209? right so you know what to expect there then.

Character wise its a mixed bag, a very annoying, odd mixed bag. Firstly Chappie's creator Deon is your stereotypical specs wearing, weedy, nerdy type that can't defend himself and tends to get pushed around. He acts like a father to Chappie and tries his best to 'raise' correctly despite the circumstances. Jackman plays your stereotypical rough, tough, on the edge ex-soldier type that thinks nothing of sabotaging another company project, possibly committing murder, assault and threatening behaviour, but he has a wicked retro mullet so all is forgiven.
The gangland thugs are a whole different kettle of fish, oh my. With quirky names...Ninja, Amerika and Yoland, this trio are actually not your stereotypical thugs, mainly because they are South African gangland thugs which is kinda new (well two are). Yes we all know now that Blomkamp hired South African rap duo Die Antwoord as the main two gangland thugs, was that a good idea? well sort of I suppose. I've never heard of them so to me at least, they were a breath of fresh air instead of the usual American gangland thugs. Their attire, bling, haircuts, accents and brightly coloured assault rifles all make for quite a unique take on the average gun totting criminal I must say, sure they can't act too well but at least they were original to look at. Although I have to say, I found it hard to believe Yoland goes from being a hardened gang member to a loving caring mother figure for Chappie so quickly. Due to Chappie's new A.I. chip basically starting him off in life at the level of a child, the bad guys must turn their base/hideout into a makeshift children's nursery to look after him! Again that seemed kinda daft to me, as if they would do that.

As for the story and what we see...well again its mostly ripped-off other movies, namely the two I have already mentioned. The gang trio must look after Chappie so he can reach his full potential, but Ninja is cruel with little patience. So you can bet your bottom Dollar Chappie is on the receiving end of some harsh 'parenting'. The obligatory, abandoning in the middle of nowhere sequence, where Chappie gets smashed up by other homeless thugs is your clear cut 'Short Circuit' rip-off. Most of the movie also shows how Ninja slowly corrupts Chappie and turns him into a gang member, adoring him with graffiti, bling, a gun and teaching him how to speak and act like a homie. Again this whole aspect is taken from 'Short Circuit 2' where the idea is hinted at in one small scene and realised fully in the finale. Watching these sequences was quite painful really, you really felt sorry for Chappie, being taught all this ghetto shit, what's worse is you know that it would actually happen in reality.

Most of the movie pretty much follows 'Robocop' for the most part, everything to do with ex-soldier Vincent basically. The big finale harks back to both 'Robocop' and 'Robocop 2' with a shoot out between criminals, Chappie and the MOOSE. It all ends as predicted and offers no real surprises frankly. The exchanging of minds or consciousnesses into other robots seems to belong in an entirely different movie if you ask me, that whole angle just felt totally out of place. Where as the very end twist didn't make much sense either, why all of sudden do the robots (or this specific robot for Yoland), have a humanoid face? Not only that, but a humanoid face that resembles Yoland's face, and how come they are now building female looking robots?? I guessed maybe a lot of time had passed between the end scenes, but I don't think so. So how come they are able to build such an advanced looking robot in the exact same factory as the regular robots? with no apparent passage of time.

I would say this was an ambitious project...but its not really, its just using other peoples idea basically, almost a remake of two franchises spliced together. Ultimately its kinda flawed, looks good, but at the same time dull and depressing really. Still not overly sure where Yoland got the time to get her own Chappie t-shirt printed up, but she did, and she wears it during the finale.


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