It’s likely that most of you might remember a film by the South African director Neill Blomkamp called District 9, which was set in Johannesburg and was widely converted as a great experimentation into the science fiction genre, creating a film that we haven’t really seen before. Now Blomkamp is back with another new experimentation called Chappie.
Set in a near-future version of Johannesburg, where the South African government purchases a squadron of robots from a manufacturer named Tratavaal, Chappie looks at what might be a possible future in real life, whilst questioning how we might come to think about artificial intelligence.
Tetraval see huge success with the scouts developed by Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) and soon ramp up production in order to meet the demand of Johanneburg and the world, however for Deon this isn’t simply enough, he wants to create a robot that can accurately mimic a human mind to the point of feeling emotions and having its own opinions, however due to Trataval being a weapons manufacturer, he is forced to do all of his work on A.I. at home by Tetraval CEO Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver).
Spurred on by a poster of a cat, Deon decides to take things into his own hands and begin testing his self-developed A.I. on one of the scout robots he previously made, and so he steals the robot named Scout 22 (Chappie) and the “guard key” that is needed to update the robot, however before he can finish the job we get introduced to a new set of characters, Ninja (Watkin Tuder Jones, also known as Ninja), Yolandi (Yolanda Visser) and Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo).This group of gangsters have been forced to pay a debt of 20 million rand to the leading gangster Hippo (Brandon Auret) in order to keep their lives, in order to do which they decide to kidnap Deon in order to get him to hack the robots and allow them to complete a heist, of
This group of gangsters have been forced to pay a debt of 20 million rand to the leading gangster Hippo (Brandon Auret) in order to keep their lives, in order to do which they decide to kidnap Deon in order to get him to hack the robots and allow them to complete a heist, of course they find something better, they find Chappie.
With this their plan changes into using the robot as a fellow gangster in order to complete the heist effectively, and so they force Deon to install the newly created A.I. software into the damaged robot and teach it to become a gangster for them to use to their advantage.
What follows is scenes of Chappie being taught various human activities and words, however with this the gang realise that Chappie might not be the right robot for them if he is taught by its maker Deon, and so they cast him out in order to teach the robot in their own way.
Kept in the sidelines, Deon worries about Chappie being taught the wrong things including swearing, shooting and ending his sentences with a nose-wipe. This has all been brilliantly created with the fantastical computer effects from Blomkamp, who managed to make Chappie’s body language seem human, helping to truly sell the story of Chappie’s upbringing from a child to a teenager.
Of course it wouldn’t be a film without someone who is trying to take that all away, and as such we meet yet another character, this time an Australian engineer named Vincent (Hugh Jackman), sporting a very awkward hair cut, Vincent is jealous of how well Deon’s robots have been doing, especially since his own robot called The Moose has been repeatedly rejected.
Set on a path of revenge, Vincent decides to destroy Deon’s robots and get his own into production.
And this is where we start to see the film unravel, things don’t make much sense toward the end when you see scenes like when the gang abandoned Chappie in the middle of the city, despite the fact that he was the core cog within his plan, and to top it all off we don’t think the matter of consciousness was explored well enough throughout the film, in fact I found myself extremely disappointed towards the end.
Maybe I have been a bit spoilt by the wondrous Ex Machina (You can read our full review of that film here.), but I can’t help but to think that Chappie was a little to lacklustre despite the great basis of the film itself.
However if you have a spare two hours and fancy watching something new then Chappie might be an entertaining option, that said if you haven’t seen Ex Machina yet then maybe that might be a better option.