Starring: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Brandon Auret, Anderson Cooper, Jason Cope, and more.
Directed by: Neill Blomkamp Written by: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell Cinematography by: Trent Opaloch Music by: Hans Zimmer
Premise: A scientist working on artificial intelligence takes a chance and steals a broken scout robot, but is in turn kidnapped. To placate his captors, he offers them the use of scout 22 once he's implanted him with his new AI program. Desperate themselves, the kidnappers take Deon up on the offer, hoping to use the scout for a big heist to get them out of trouble with their boss. But as soon as the scout robot is rebooted, it is obvious scout 22 is more than they bargained for. (Rated R)
1) Acting - Thumbs Up: Dev Patel was perfect as the geeky Deon Wilson. His emotional fervor shone through as the lamb became the lion. Hugh Jackman easily brought home all the frustrated emasculation of his character Vincent Moore. Sigourney Weaver was once more sadly underused.
Outshining everyone, whoever, was Chappie, played by Sharlto Copley. His vocal deliveries, and even more, his captured body movements which were transferred to the CGI character, made Chappie more human than the real thing. Really amazing.
2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: The CGI work on this film is utterly fantastic. It's hard to think of Chappie as a created image, he looks so real on the screen. The physical interaction between him and those around him totally complete the illusion. Truly some incredible work.
Even the big brute Moose, when finally used in the film, was darn impressive. Add in the explosions, rivers of bullets, and damage of all kinds, and the virtuous efforts of the special effects team are everywhere you look.
3) Plot/Story - Neutral: Though the whole concept of Chappie and his evolution is quite fascinating, the overall plot sadly suffers from all sorts of inadequacies.
Chappie as a character is developed with a lot of detail. But almost everyone else are cookie cutter cutouts. Hippo, for example, is the typical power mad, trigger happy, unthinking thug, putting pressure on his underlings for failing to meet his demands.
The theme of bullies is explored from several directions, which did add some interest and color, if you caught on. Lambs turning into Lions was another motif lightly explored.
Most of the science seemed viable - aside from putting your entire consciousness in a thumb drive, that is. And how secure is your programming when you only have one viable special flash drive and it requires no password? Those issues and some other items appeared somewhat contrived. And to be honest, for most of the film, 90% of the characters involved were not in anyway likable. The effort at the whole "being made better for those you've met" theme was hard to swallow after the ferocity evidenced by one or more of the characters.
And while Chappie gets some physical satisfaction against Vincent, nothing ever comes out about what he did, and all the people he endangered and who died because of his self serving actions (not to speak of the outright attempted murders of two unarmed men). The fact that at the end of the film they mention the scout robots would never be used again made no sense whatsoever. The information and videos of who and what crime was perpetrated at the factory easily available and what made Chappie, Chappie, not having anything to do with the standard scout class programming.
The R Rating should be taken seriously for younger viewers. Not so much for the physical violence, but the emotional ones. Chappie's first night away from home was pretty brutal.
They did move me. I'll give them that. But again, that was all Chappie and Deon for the most part.
4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: Lots of action, violence, bullets, and explosions. They fill the testosterone quota quite nicely - especially the awesome fight at the beginning of the film. I wanted to see more of that!
5) Locations/Cinematography - Thumbs Up: You see enough sci-fi films and some locations start becoming somewhat familiar, even when dressed up a little. A towering building used in Judge Dredd and the shantytown used in District 9 make appearances. They did pick some rather iconic locations, and ones the director has used previously. Still, the cinematography was lovely. And the odd, childish decor in the abandoned building where Ninja and Yo-Landi lived speaked of a childhood they'd never had, even as it served as a unexpected nurturing environment for Chappie.
Conclusion: Some superb CGI work - so good you don't even realize that's what it is. On the down side are cookie cutter characters and made to fit items. You'll be moved, but not excited. Sadly, nothing new was explored in the AI theme. And while the ending was slightly surprising, it doesn't make up for the rest.
Rating: 3 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Better for Matinee)