In 1999, Brad Bird wowed his limited audience with the stunning animated masterpiece known as The Iron Giant, a film about a giant robot from outer space that befriends this loving kid and learns about the cruelties of human beings. In 2015, Neill Blomkamp makes the same movie but on a much smaller scale and in live action. And generally worse.
In the near future, the police force have issued robotic law enforcers (less cool clones of RoboCop) to help aid the police effort in lowering the crime rate in America to great results. Deon Wilson (played by Dev Patel), the inventor of these robotic law enforcers, decides to give one of his little inventions a mind of it’s own, thereby creating artificial intelligence. This artificial intelligence goes by the name of Chappie.
You’d probably be guessing that this film is about the creator of artificial intelligence and the artificial intelligence itself having fun little adventures and learning about the cruelties of humanity (much like The Iron Giant) but sadly, this is about an artificial intelligence learning how to be a gangster from the most self-aware character stereotype in the history of cinema.
Chappie does have some moments of the titular robot looking at humanity with a tone of disappointment in his voice and it does have some moments of the titular robot being raised like a child in a slightly heart-warming way, but these moments are obscured by some major story problems that stop Chappie from reaching it’s full potential.
Story Problem #1: Every character plays an overly stereotyped version of their basic character underlines
Sigourney Weaver plays “the boss”, a woman of power who rejects the villain’s proposals at the beginning for no reason whatsoever and suddenly has a change of heart for the villain when the hero is in most trouble.
Hugh Jackman plays “the bad guy”, an inventor whose invention won’t get approved who’s really determined to take down the hero for no reason whatsoever. The list goes on…
Story Problem #2: The character’s motivations are unclear
The guy who plays the gangster (I genuinely forgot the character’s name) is tough towards the titular robot the entire movie and doesn’t ease up once. But at the very climax, the gangster’s whole character motivation changes with no explanation.
Even though there are many major problems with the story, I will give Chappie credit for one thing. The main positive I can say about Chappie is the performance from Sharlto Copley (Chappie), who made me feel actual fear for Chappie when it got lost or it got confused and make me believe that I was watching a real robot.
Chappie is disappointing when you hear that it was a follow up to Elysium, which was a follow up to District 9. As a science fiction film, it falls short. As a study on human cruelty, it does alright. As a kindergarten tape for a robot, it’s alright. As a thrilling action film, no.
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