'Chappie:' A Short-Circuit performance
Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) seems to always tackle the social issues going on in the world, usually in his hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa. With his first two films centering mostly on immigration, his most recent work deals with artificial intelligence. While the topic hasn’t become too repetitive yet in theaters, it’s starting to wear out a bit with this action-packed, yet under-told story about a whimsical child-robot.
“Chappie” takes place in a fictional near future where robots called have become the new police force. When one of the droids, Chappie, is stolen by a group of gangster splayed by the rap group Die Antwoord (Ninja and Yo-Landi), he is rebooted and given the mind of a child who must learn the ways of life. Authorities begin to see Chappie as a danger and will stop at nothing to ensure he is the last to receive new programming.
Sharlto Copley is just amazing in this film; he plays Chappie with such innocence and likability, you feel sad when he’s sad and happy when he’s happy. There are even parts you tear up for him. He may not be in the same rank as Andy Serkis, but he’s definitely up there. Besides giving a twist on today’s problems, Neill Blomkamp also knows how to make terrific action scenes, and what he does with the camera and the epic music constructed by Hans Zimmer makes the one in the third act just mind-blowing.
Unfortunately, this film also suffers from bad character development. While I thought Die Antwoord acted fine in the film, one-half of them, (Ninja), was a royal jerk up until the third act, which made it hard to care for him. With Hugh Jackman, Neill could have given his character multiple dimensions; instead he comes off as a one-sided villain who doesn’t really explain his motives. While this film does boasts a likeable lead and well-executed action scenes, you may be displeasured by some of the underwritten characters and scenes. Fairly recommended, 3.5/5.