release date: 6 March 2015 (Canada)
run time: 120 mins
considered: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
director: Neil Blomkamp
starring: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Brandon Auret, Johnny Selema, Anderson Cooper, Maurice Carpede, Jason Cope, Kevin Otto, Chris Shields, Bill Marchant
movie summary: In South Africa times are tough, crime rates are at all-time high and the body count rises every day thanks to gang warfare. The government has tried to recruit new officers for the police force but no one wants to work for the side that continues to lose on a daily basis. Tetravaal is a robotics company that produces armoured fighting droids to help the cops do their jobs and protect the citizens of Johannesburg. Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) is the man behind the droid design and has spent all his free time developing a program that will give his artificial intelligent droids a mind of their own. After droid #22 is blown up by an RPG, Deon will steal him away to give him a software upgrade. Just when he is about to get his broken droid home to perform his magic, he’ll get car jacked by Ninja (Ninja) and Yolanda (Yo-Landi Visser) who want the droid to perform a heist with. When Deon is given time to work, he brings #22 alive and renames his new creation Chappie. Over the next five days both Deon and Ninja will fight over how to use Chappie, while Chappie spends his days learning and growing his knowledge, trying his best to fit in.
my thoughts: Chappie has been the hardest movie review I’ve ever written. You may wonder why this sci-fi flick has given me trouble and I can sum it up like this; Chappie as a movie with a gangsta sub plot was a horrible, but Chappie the character was absolutely amazing and had me on the verge of tears many times throughout. There are a lot of people who do not want to see this sci-fi movie while others like myself bought tickets for opening night and have already seen it again. I was intrigued by Chappie from the very first teaser trailer and hoped for a whole new concept about robots and artificial intelligence. I will admit that having extremely high hopes that this storyline let me down on every possible level, but Chappie was such a loveable character that I couldn’t help but love him.
The storyline, which features a gang of thugs who go around robbing people, was a really bad idea. I did not like Ninja, Yolanda, or even Yankie (Jose Pablo Cantillo) as actors or as characters. Ninja was as dumb as a tool box, covered in ridiculous looking tattoos, who thinks he’s a real gangster when he is just a pawn on someone else’s chess board. Yolanda is a kind-hearted woman who probably is just stuck in her current situation because she’s in love with an idiot. When she gets the opportunity to be a mother figure to Chappie, she’ll rediscover her passion for life and will defend her “son” at all costs. Yankie is the third wheel of the group, the guy from America who is just in town to earn enough money from the heist to return home. These characters all come across as real authentic South African people who live in Johannesburg and fight everyday to just survive.
Dev Patel may have had success in other Hollywood movies but his Deon character here in Chappie couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag. Despite being a brilliant inventor, when his greatest creation, a creation that will change the world, slips through his hands he acts like a big baby and bails. He had no fight in him to protect Chappie and turns into a push over that even when he arms himself with a gun, poses no believable threat at all. He works under the supervision of Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver), who is the head of Tetravaal and only really cares about the share holders and not her employees. On of her most cunning and greedy employees is none other than Vincent Moore played by Hugh Jackman. It’s unusual to see Jackman take on a bad guy role, but he really excels in this role as the guy who has a better robot and will do anything he can to kill Deon’s droids and become the hero.
Between Ninja’s gang and Tetravaal’s employees there are a lot of moving parts within the story about a robot who develops a conscious. This movie is all about greedy people but somewhere in the middle is this young robot named Chappie. It doesn’t matter if you love sci-fi movies, robots, gangs, guns, or anything else that is in this movie, you are gonna to love Chappie. He is shy and smart, yet you’d never guess it from his first couple of minutes. As he begins to adapt to his surroundings, he has no clue that Ninja plans to use and abuse him for his own personal gain. Through lies and mistreatment, Ninja will leave Chappie in the worse possible situations that could make someone with a soft spot in their hearts, literally cry. Chappie just wants to go home and not be in situations were he is abused. He continues to learn new things every day, including the fact that he has only has a certain amount of time to live. This knowledge will become his obsession as he does whatever he can to prolong his life. One of the other parts that almost had me in tears was when his research computer gets shot up and he risks losing all his hard work. As you sit there and root for him to figure out his next move, to see it all blow up is heart breaking, much like the time he loses his arm. It sounds cliché but Chappie doesn’t know any better and is just so trusting to everyone close to him. It will take a few lessons from the school of hard knocks for Chappie to finally realize that there are people who care about him and people who plan to abuse him. Through out all this drama in his life, Chappie continues to be the better person. He’s the person who just wants to do right in every situation, find peace and perform good deeds, while coming across as a crazy gangsta wanna be thanks to developing poor mannerisms from Ninja and Yankie. If you manage to take a second and appreciate the amazing CGI, and get over the horrible storytelling all around, you would appreciate the humour Chappie provides from start to finish.
I know this review sounds like a bunch of words smashed together and probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I apologize for that because I’ve hit a wall in terms of writing after getting really sick last week. It’s tough to explain a movie that played with my emotions so much that when I left the theatre I really didn’t know how I felt. I loved it so much, yet hated it just as much. Everyone knows by now I don’t like sci-fi movies and Chappie is very much a sci-fi movie. There’s probably a deeper meaning in the story that I may have missed because my focus was on Chappie the character and how effective he was. It took me over a week to get healthy and head back to see this film for a second time. As I sat through the second showing the storyline didn’t bother me as much and I was able to look for things I might have missed on opening night.
I have said for a long time that I consider Optimus Prime to be one of the greatest leaders in history, while Caesar from Planet of the Apes is right up there along side my robotic friend. After watching Chappie, I wish he was real so that I had the chance to meet him and hang out with him much like Optimus and Caesar. I can’t describe it, but Chappie had an effect me and I would do anything I could to help him out no matter the costs.
my final thoughts: Chappie is a movie that you are either going to love or hate, but won’t know until you give it a try. It’s that simple.
my star rating: 9.5 out 10
imdb: 7.3 out 10
rottentomatoes: 30% out 100%
roger ebert: 1 out 4
richard crouse: 2 out 5