Chappie was not what I expected, nor was it exactly the movie that was advertised. The action was minimal; Hugh Jackman’s role was smaller than I anticipated. And yes director Neil Blomkamp has set yet another film in Johannesburg South Africa. And yet despite all of those factors, it was still entertaining. Chappie does have some redeeming qualities that make it a charming, yet cartoonist, and campy film
The overall premise of the plot is intriguing albeit overused. It is the not so distance future and a police force of robots are being integrated into society. An overzealous computer geek installs a program into a malfunctioned robot that bestows a sentient mind and thus Chappie is born. The characterization of Chappie was completely different than I anticipated; however, it does work and actually fits within the context of the plot. However, were this film missed an opportunity was the underuse of Hugh Jackman and the overuse of the South African rap group Die Antwoord.
Hugh Jackman does play a large part in this film; however, he is underutilized and his character under developed. Yet, the story focuses on An American immigrant and two characters played by the South African rap group Die Antwoord. I do not claim to know much about the art of acting; however, the two characters portrayed by the Die Antwoord pair were extremely cartoony. Jose Pablo Cantillo who plays Yankee America (Yelp that is the character’s name) actually grounded the film. The actor actually salvaged a descent performance from the campy writing and provided some realism to the cartoonist behaviors of the other two rapper turned actors.
Speaking of campy, this seemed to be an underlying theme. Was this purposefully done? Blomkamp is known for incorporating sociopolitical themes within his works, Chappie certainly seems like a satire of South African rap culture. There is definitely an influence of rap and gangster culture that permeates throughout the entirety of the film. This can produce some hearty chuckles, especially if you do not go into this movie taking it too seriously.
What is intriguing about this film despite some of its shortcomings is the character of Chappie. Those hoping this film can recapture the magic of 2009’s District 9 you will be disappointed. However, Blomkamp is a master at creating and crafting compelling protagonists. Chappie is no exception. This movie in a lot of ways is not a story about robots but rather about humanity. It is a tale about how the environments in which we live influence our lives and personalities. It is a story of the corruption of innocence and redemption. This is not an action adventure as marketed and is not a popcorn thriller with action, violence, and mayhem. If you go into this movie expecting that, you will be disappointed. This movie is a coming of age tale which calls into question the depths of humanity, the definition of good and evil, and the extent of a soul.