SYNOPSIS: Every child comes into the world full of promise, and none more so than Chappie: he is gifted, special, a prodigy. Like any child, Chappie will come under the influence of his surroundings -- some good, some bad -- and he will rely on his heart and soul to find his way in the world and become his own man. But there's one thing that makes Chappie different from anyone else: he is a robot. The first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. His life, his story, will change the way the world looks at robots and humans forever.
Neill Blomkamp, director of 2009’s District 9 and 2013’s Elysium brings us Chappie, with a cast that includes Hugh Jackman (X-Men: Days of Future Past, 2014), Sigourney Weaver (Alien, film series), Sharlto Copley (Elysium), Dev Patel (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 2012) and Jose Pablo Cantillo (The Walking Dead).
Over his past two movies (DISTRICT 9 and ELYSIUM), Blomkamp has primarily been tagged as a visionary filmmaker who prefers gritty and realistic sci-fi genre with sociopolitical context. However, in his third major feature, CHAPPIE, he and his cohorts seems bold enough to go further by integrating a little lighthearted comedy element , as with 1986’s SHORT CIRCUIT and 2001’s A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE heartfelt "robot-with-a-human-consciousness" storyline, except in this case, it’s set within the chaotic nature of the crime-infested Johannesburg.
Although CHAPPIE shares many resemblances with ROBOCOP in terms of its visual aesthetics (e.g. Moose, which looks almost identical to ED-209) as well as its plot and character element (e.g. Jackman's character echoes the similarity of Ronny Cox's slimy character as Richard Jones), it's far from a cheap rip-off. Instead, the ROBOCOP-like formula works well with Blomkamp's filmmaking style. Likewise, Blomkamp's direction is intense while displaying a great visual flair for violent action scenes and cool slow-motion effects. Kudos also goes out to the amazingly seamless special effects between the robots and the background in the movie. It’s as lifelike as one can possibly imagine.
The cast is impressive, with Dev Patel playing the nerd fixated on having a world-class technological breakthrough in the “AI” arena while Hugh Jackman is in rare bad-guy form. Both are absolutely noteworthy. And despite appearing only in a small role, Sigourney Weaver is equally memorable as the cold-hearted and profit-hungry CEO of TetraVaal. Certainly worth mentioning is the South African rap-rave group “Die Antwoord’s” Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser, who, interestingly enough steal most of the show with their flashy, yet surprisingly likable performances playing two violent but sympathetic low-life gangsters. And lastly, but certainly not least, the other scene-stealer is Sharlto Copley who plays Chappie providing an amusing childlike and naive voice performance as Chappie.
Surprisingly enough, this movie about robots and artificial intelligence turns out to be extremely human in nature and becomes a touching and heartfelt story of mankind and its spirit and desire to live-on. CHAPPIE is satisfying enough as one of the best genre movies of its kind and has all of the makings to be one of the best sci-fi movies of the year. Four out of five stars would well deserve here, just losing a point for becoming a little slow and dragging on in the middle of the 120 minute play time.
By Movi-Man Stan
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