Neill Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi flick is a total bust.
After his astounding debut with District 9, a film that is easily one of my favorite science fiction films of all-time, Blomkamp is doing his best to make himself a one-hit wonder. His last film, Elysium, rehashed ideas from from D9, and wasted the talents of Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. Chappie, initially pitched as a sci-fi comedy, is his latest big screen feature, and is a film about creating artificial intelligence, and placing that into a humanoid robot. Unfortunately it pushes his decline even further, producing the weakest of his films.
To say I was disappointed in Chappie is an understatement. After Elysium I didn’t have the highest of hopes, but this film has an excellent and interesting cast. Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, and the voice/motion capture of Sharlto Copley for the titular character of Chappie. Still, even with this strong group of actors, they can’t carry a weak narrative and even weaker dialogue. Like I mentioned, this film was originally thought to be a comedy, and maybe in some weird way it is, because the dialogue is literally laughable. It’s over-the-top, often pointless, and always dumb.
It’s a shame because there are a couple of interesting elements in the film. The action is kind of entertaining, even if we are beat over the head with constant slo-mo shots. The concept of robot police has been done before, and done better, but given the destructive environment that South Africa is, it could have been utilized here. Instead we get an opening segment promising that, and is never again referenced. Literally I think the filmmakers forgot to cut out an entire sequence early on that is never again referenced. Chappie also rips off Blomkamp’s own films liberally, whilst trying out new ideas. The crisp shots of Elysium are present, as well as the “documentary” style of District 9, leaving Chappie to be a bastardized mix of both.
And now let’s mention Die Antwoord. Die Antwoord is a South African rap group consisting of a dude named Ninja, and a woman named Yo-landi. They star in Chappie as some local, idiotic gangsters who try to use Chappie in a heist. And their characters are called… Ninja and Yo-landi. Yup, they play themselves in some weird future form. And they reference themselves. And they wear clothing featuring their music. Hell, there are even closeups of the Die Antwoord logo. It’s incredibly weird, and possibly one of the worst decisions, especially given how much their characters detract from the film. It’s even more interesting that they’re even in the film after learning about their tumultuous involvement with Blomkamp and the rest of the crew.
Chappie is not a good film. It’s a total waste of acting talent, and seemingly crew talent as well. My wife literally fell asleep during an afternoon screening, in the midst of an action scene. It’s painstakingly boring and silly. Hopefully, if anything, this will cause some producers to take the Alien franchise away from Neill Blomkamp. It would be unfortunate for him, but I would really hate to see that series get a treatment that Chappie got.