WRITTEN BY: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
DIRECTED BY: Neill Blomkamp
STARRING: Sharlto Copley, Ninja, Yolandi Visser, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman
RATING: 3.5 stars
The streets of Johannesburg are being successfully patrolled by robotic police called Scouts, with human officers used as support. Engineer and Scout creator Deon (Dev Patel) creates an artificial intelligence, but when his boss Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) refuses to give the go-ahead to try it, Deon decides to secretly install the chip in an old droid. But Deon is soon kidnapped by a trio of thugs who want to use the robot, they name Chappie, to commit crimes. Their only problem is that Chappie is as innocent as a child. When Deon's colleague, the ruthless Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) learns what Deon has created, he comes up with a plan to ruin Deon and the Scout program so that he can unleash his own crime-fighting machine called The Moose.
South African director Neill Blomkamp often delivers films that are a thought-provoking commentary on social issues, including class and corruption. He also has a knack for creating visually fascinating perceptions of the world, which often seem to take inspiration from Mad Max. In Chappie, he has given audiences both, while adding an intriguing story about the debate on advancements in technology and the theme of nature versus nurture.
Chappie, the character, is so innocent and surprisingly cute, which is largely due to the great effort of actor, Sharlto Copley, who gives the robot humanity. His mannerisms are fantastic and he has some hilarious moments too because Chappie needs to learn how to speak and how to understand feelings. The film is actually a fascinating look at how malleable young minds can be and how different parenting techniques can influence the way a person sees the world. South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord members Ninja and Yolandi play Chappie's thug “parents” and while she has some touching maternal moments, he would rather teach Chappie how to be a gangster. Yolandi is endearing but Ninja has some frustrating moments. Jackman and Weaver seem to just be there to give the film more credibility, but Michelle is so minor and Vincent is so under-developed that no one can care much about him or his motives.
Unfortunately, there are also a few plot holes and moments of convenience that make the film falter, such as why the villains repeatedly allow Deon to come and go from their hideout when they usually have no problem killing people. Nonetheless, the action-packed climax will not disappoint. The film is almost two hours long, which is unnecessary, but it will surely spark debate about the social issues it raises.