Interesting premise of AI being raised in tough Johannesburg. Some humorous moments. A couple of action sequences
NO ONE cared about the Guardkey during entire movie except Deon and Vincent. Um, security at Tetravaal? Chappie suddenly knows how to do things he was never exposed to? Too much gangsta training
Rating ( 5 )
- Total score
Chappie is a sci-fi movie written and directed by Neill Blomkamp about a robot with artificial intelligence developing on the tough streets of Johannesburg, South Africa. He’s the brainchild of Deon Wilson, an engineer working for Tetravaal, a weapons manufacturer and developer of Johannesburg’s robotic police force. The sky-high murder rate in Johannesburg has been a boon for Tetravaal as Deon’s design for the robotic police has been everything that has been needed to reduce crime including police fatality rates. And there’s no fear of these robots being hacked because they have a titanium shell and can only be interfaced individually with a device called the Guardkey, which is kept at Tetravaal. Even though they’re highly capable of adapting to specific situations, they don’t possess artificial intelligence, which Deon has been working on for years as a personal hobby. So he’s more than happy when he’s finally able to create a working program for artificial intelligence after many sleepless nights. Yet, when he presents his accomplishment to Michelle Bradley, the CEO, she rejects it stating that they’re in the business of weapons development and not robots that have to be raised like toddlers and might one day appreciate art. Undeterred, Deon steals the Guardkey and a police robot slated for destruction, and intends on installing his AI program. However, he’s intercepted on his way home and kidnapped by 3 gangsters who have to repay a debt of 20 million rand in 7 days or they’re dead. Their plan is to force Deon to give them a police robot to help them with their heist. Since he can’t change the programming of the regular police robots he decides to upload his AI program to the one he has, and Chappie is born. They all come to an agreement: the gang will keep Chappie to raise him for their purposes but Deon can visit and teach him everyday. Torn between the two worlds, can Chappie develop properly and exceed even Deon’s expectations or will he succumb to all the turmoil in Johannesburg?
There have been numerous movies that have dealt with the question of an AI developing and encountering humans who are afraid of it or not ready for all it could do but I wanted to see Neil Bloomkamp’s take on it. Even though I wasn’t feeling Elysium, I’m still a huge fan of District 9 so I hoped for more of the latter. And this movie started off really good setting the stage in Johannesburg and showing the need for the robotic police force and its impact. Even the way it tied in the numerous mishaps of the robot shell that would eventually become Chappie was entertaining. And the initial attention to detail such as the elaborate explanation as to why the police robots were unhackable or the amount of time Deon put into his AI program was very much appreciated. And in the environment in Johannesburg, it was very plausible that someone would come up with the idea of wanting to hack a robot so I didn’t really have a problem with that. Looking back at it now, the problems all started once Deon completed his AI program and all the actions that followed. Initially I wasn’t concerned with how these 3 gangsters just happened to find Deon and kidnap him on the same day he decided to just basically take the Guardkey but this would become indicative of how things would go downhill from here. Deon made the discovery of a lifetime, only told the CEO of Tetravaal, and once it was taken by these gangstas he just went about his regular daily routine while they raised Chappie. And he had no way of tracking Chappie while his rival, Vincent Moore was able to develop a way to do so. It was as if all these different ideas were thrown into the movie with no way of bringing them together in a coherent manner. And this was still when the movie was at its high point.
But the focus of this movie was about Chappie, his development, and any commentary his experience could offer not just about Johannesburg but life. At first I wasn’t connecting to Chappie at all, and there was only one clear moment that showed how fast he could actually learn, and that was learning how to speak. Aside from that moment things were rarely shown from his first person interface to at least give insight on his capabilities. Instead of focusing on his development he was instead turned into a wannabe gangster. There were a few humorous moments and it felt borderline minstrel show at some points. However, Chappie did feel more real when learning about the realities of life in Johannesburg. Yolandi, Ninja and Yankie were a mixed bag at times, although I do think if the story was stronger they would’ve been able to deliver better portrayals in their respective roles because they were effective during the more engaging parts. Yolandi became the loving mother and Ninja was the abusive father manipulating Chappie for his own reasons. And Deon, well Deon became almost an afterthought in Chappie’s life.
Chappie is a disappointing sci-fi film that had the potential to address a familiar premise in a fresh way but instead dragged on the wannabe gangster sequences far too long. Chappie is at his best when interacting with both the real world environment and his makeshift family but at his worst when treated as a parody. And the movie suffers the most as events unfold because of the lack of believable responses/security from Tetravaal, and Deon being the least informed about his creation. I don’t recommend Chappie even if you have an affinity for a robot wearing gold chains.