Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Category: Science Fiction
Sadly, I fed into the consensus that Chappie was a bad film. I read too many reviews that panned Neill Blomkamp's follow up to District 9 and Elysium as nonsensical, amateurish and silly. Because of this, I had no desire to shell out my hard earned money to see this in the theater. But recently a friend of mine suggested that I give it a chance, that it's a great science fiction film, and while it's not perfect, it's not nearly as terrible as critics have made it out to be. With Chappie finally being available to rent at home, I jumped on the chance, and I'm so glad I did.
I hate when I feed into all the crap the major critics have to say about something. I always tell myself I'll never fall for it, but more often than not, I do, and Chappie was no exception. The trailers didn't really seem to help either. I couldn't tell what kind of film it was supposed to be, but I still held out hope that Blomkamp could deliver another standout like he did with District 9. But then I started thinking how much Elysium left me severely underwhelmed, and thought maybe he lost his ability to deliver something great? So I stayed away, and after having finally seen it, I regret that decision.
By no means a perfect film, Chappie surely doesn't deserve all the negativity it has received. Sure it's not without it's problems, but I doubt that Blomkamp ever intended to reinvent the fucking genre with this film, or prove artificial intelligence with some hard science. I think people oftentimes lose sight of what the intention was, and that's to entertain.
With Chappie, writer/director Neill Blomkamp displays much more of a stylistic flare, more so than in his 2 previous films. After Elysium, I wondered if District 9 was a fluke in terms of his impressive camerawork, because with Elysium I just didn't see the same aesthetic that I loved in District 9. But with Chappie, he brings back the pizzazz and I personally found it his most aesthetically impressive film to date.
I think everyone's major gripe was that the film is uneven, and I can only agree. Sometimes dark and violent, sometimes funny, and sometimes lighthearted, it's constantly changing tone threw me off from time to time, but when I stopped trying to figure out what type of film this is supposed to be, I enjoyed it. It's an immensely entertaining film, made with talent and a confidence that reminds me that Neill Blomkamp "will" be the right man for the job when it comes time to offer up the next Alien film.
One of the more surprising aspects - and there were many - of this film was it's stellar International cast representing all corners of the globe. With so much of the trailer focused on Chappie himself, I was surprised to see Hugh Jackman (Australian), Sigourney Weaver (American), Dev Patel (Indian), Anderson Cooper (American), and most shocking, Yo-Landi Visser & Ninja (South Africa), who make up the South African rap group Die Antwoord. And guess what? Visser and Ninja are surprisingly good actors. Who knew?! Hell, there's even a Hispanic in here, playing of course, a gang member.
The film plays with familiar themes, so there's nothing in here we haven't seen before. For instance, I found a lot of similarities to Short Circuit, in terms of Chappie being an artificial intelligence and believing it's alive. The ever-capable and Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley supplied the voice of Chappie, and it's really through his voice that Chappie comes to life. Moments of sadness, anger, frustration, and excitement are all brought to the surface through Copley's vocal talent. Sure, Chappie looks amazing. So much so that you honestly can't tell he's CGI; you'd swear it was an actual practical robotic effect. But it' Sharlto Copley who does the magic and gives Chappie the personality that sells everything.
The entire cast is pretty outstanding all around. It was strange seeing Jackman as a villain, but he's eerily effective. But the ones who surprised me the most were the duo that make up Die Antwoord, who go by Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser. I had heard of them as my girlfriend likes their music, but I was rather shocked to see them pull out some impressive acting abilities in this, essentially looking like themselves, and assuming acting like themselves as well. But still, what could have been a disaster in the casting department, really lends a bit of authenticity to these two characters having cast them.
A bit uneven at times, I found a lot to love about this latest science fiction film from Neill Blomkamp. While District 9 is still his standout, I think Chappie easily falls a close second. I found myself always surprised at the direction this film took, as it kept veering left and then right, and never the way you expect it to. Incredible effects work, impressive camerawork, and a knockout cast deliver a helluva fun ride. I'm more confident than ever that Blomkamp can deliver a badass Alien sequel.