In the near future, crime prevention is the task of an oppressive mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie (Sharlto Copley), is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.
Review by Louise Keller:
Countless problems plague this misfire by South African director Neill Blomkamp, but above all it's the total incredulity of the narrative concerning the development of the robotic Chappie that crushes it to rubble. It's a bitter disappointment with Blomkamp showing such promise with his 2009 Oscar nominated sci-fi action thriller District 9, followed in 2013 by the futuristic Elysium. While there is merit in some of the ideas raised in Chappie, the weaknesses overwhelm the strengths, leaving us bombarded by an avalanche of explosions, special effects, incomprehensible muffled dialogue and an unrelenting, bombastic score.
The script (by Blomkamp and wife Terri Tatchell, with whom he wrote District 9) describes the characters blandly on one-note - they are caricatures. Dev Patel comes out best as Deon, the committed robot creator with integrity; Hugh Jackman (with bad hair) plays Vincent, the maniacal rival engineer, eager for his monster robot 'Moose' to fly at any cost; Sigourney Weaver's CEO Michelle simply plays it by the book. Sharlto Copley, who featured prominently in District 9 and Elysium, is the distinctive voice of Chappie, whose mix of bad language with South African twang offers some bleakly amusing moments.
Set in Johannesburg, the premise explores a world in which the world's first robotic police force is keeping criminals at bay. Deon's idea to take a battle-damaged robot and experiment with new technology enabling it to think for itself changes everything. While Deon insists that the robot will need to learn everything and develop like a child, the learning curve is not convincing. Deon starts the process, but then the badass crims take over; the result is ridiculous.
It is crucial for us to engage and relate to Chappie, yet we do not - this is the film's main flaw. Also problematic is the casting of rockband vocalists Yo-Landi Visser and Ninja as the characters Chappie calls Mummy and Daddy; their overacting is a curious distraction. Visser, with her striking pale looks, has a child-like demeanour and the scene in which she sits up in bed with the robot, reading a children's book called Black Sheep, is bizarre indeed.
By the time the interesting elements of consciousness and what makes a person who they are canvassed, the plot has completely gone off the rails and we are in the middle of cluster bombs, close-range heavy artillery and chaos. It's a great pity because Chappie might have been something special. Instead, it is a total mess.
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CAST: Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Yo-Landi Visser, Miranda Frigon,
PRODUCER: Simon Kinberg
DIRECTOR: Neill Blomkamp
SCRIPT: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Trent Opaloch
EDITOR: Julian Clarke, Mark Goldblatt
MUSIC: Hans Zimmer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jules Cook
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 12, 2015