I love an unconventional film. Most of those seem to fall in the indie films territory. It is rare that a film can be a mainstream big-effects movie and at the same time be as outside the box as possible. I’m happy to say that ‘Chappie’, love it or hate it, is that movie so far this year.
While “Chappie’s” plot is eerily similar to the robot and story of “Short Circuit,” This film manages to separate itself from that with the use of a Johannesburg based music group called Die Antwoord and director Neil Blomkamp.
The story centers around two thugs, Die Antwoords Yolandi and Ninja. If you are familiar with the group and go to see “Chappie,” congrats cause you are already going to at least like this movie.
Yolandi and Ninja get into some big trouble with a drug dealer for ruining some of his merchandise. That is when Americka (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and the other two decide to pull a heist to pay their dealer back.
Focus is shifted to Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) who is continuing work on the already popular robots that enforce the law on the streets. Not satisfied with normal robots Wilson spends his free time programing code that will give machines a conscience.
The gang ends up kidnapping Wilson and forcing him to install the conscience code on a damaged robot.
When “Chappie,” as they name him, is first brought to life his behavior is like a child’s and like a child he is easily influenced. Ninja only wants him to pull off the heist while Wilson and Yolandi want him to be good.
The film roughly takes places between Chappie acting like a thug or trying to be an adorable good guy.
Hugh Jackman is perhaps the most unconventional part of “Chappie” with his bad mullet, axe body spray attitude and khaki shorts he manages to be one of the most hate-able bad guys so far this year.
“Chappie” is a nice piece of sci-fi that falls in well with Blomkamps previous films. He manages to make the audience feel for a machine and some severely maladjusted thugs.
The whole film plays out like a Die Antwoord music video and gives an audience something that they haven’t seen before.
It took me some time to realize that the ideas shoved into the end of the film are based roughly off of Ray Kruzweil’s “The Age of Spiritual Machines.” Now that I know that, it makes some of the subject matter at the end believable and more tolerable.
Overall “Chappie” is a great cyberpunk ride in an unfamiliar world with lots of neon and heart. But unfortunately the jarring narrative focus and overkill climax of the film left me thinking of all the things that could have been done to focus and make this film great.