In the near future, the war on crime in South Africa is assisted by a robotic police force. Soon an internal debate occurs. One side pushed by Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), who believes a robotic police force become more effective if the robots were given a conscious, feelings and morality. As helpful as a maintaining the peace is, robots have so much more potential. On the other side is evil robot engineer, Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman). Moore believes that robots can maintain the peace by themselves as long as you equip them with more weapons and have them controlled by humans in a remote location.
Release Date: March 6, 2015
Writer: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Sigourney Weaver
Believing that robots can be given a conscious, Wilson steals a damaged robot and reprograms it with human emotions. The movie’s namesake, Chappie is born. To complicate matters, South Africa is embroiled in a particularly violent gang war. A local gang lead by Ninja and Yo-Landi (as themselves) steals Chappie in hopes of finally having a robot their own to battle against the police. They also have to deal with a bigger gang that they owe money.
Ninja and Yo-Landi coerce/threaten Wilson to allow them to teach and raise Chappie. Wilson wants Chappie to grow-up and learns what it is to be human. Ninja and Yo-Landi want/need make Chappie a member of their gang. As you can see, the plot is becoming a little convoluted. OK, it’s becoming a little convoluted.
Chappie falls into the Artificial Intelligence genre of Science Fiction. Chappie is one of those movies that only purpose is to pull at your heartstrings and sympathize toward the main character. If Chappie fails to deliver on this goals, then to some degree the movie fails. And fail it does.
The main problem is that Chappie is not the most sympathetic character. He’s a police robot with harsh edges, and only Sharlto Copley’s performance can bring a level of humanity to his cold steel robotic exterior. The main caretakers, Ninja and Yo-Landi are apparently big rock stars in South African, but unknown here in the U.S. They come across as pretty harsh gangsters and it’s really only Yo-Landi that softens during the course of the movie as she turns into Chappie’s maternal figure.
Hugh Jackman is a great villain as Vincent Moore. His mullet hairstyle makes his a little goofy and baffoonish, and we quickly turn on him as any villain should. Sigourney Weaver brings weight to her role as the head of the robotic division of the police force, but the performance is almost wasted.
The idea of sentient robots is hardly a new idea and done masterfully in the past. Blumkamp’s Chappie will not find its place in the canon of these movies because it fails to connect us emotionally with the main character, Chappie. Then there’s the ending, which takes a sudden turn into complete fantasy science fiction and any connection we have emotionally to the story at this point is completely severed.