Neill Blomkamp's CHAPPiE
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
CHAPPIE could have veered its recognizable elements in the direction of a more conventional film like the recent Robocop remake, or it could have gone down the path of dystopian gravitas like Automata. Instead it combines these elements (lone inventor, industrial corruption, dystopian crime infested future, sentient machines, explosive combat sequences) into a rather bizarre and somewhat foreign exploration of what happens when a machine falls into the wrong hands and is “raised” to be part of an unlikely criminal “family.”
About half way through I thought that what I was seeing, despite all the fantastic CGI and references to current and near-future technology, was a 1940s era pulp science fiction novel about robots gone awry. Fortunately Chappie veers off in some interesting directions that place it outside the mainstream of overly sentimentalized Hollywood films. It ends up daring to combine all-too-familiar themes with a raft of human characters that consistently make stupid decisions and do stupid things.
This is certainly not the film I saw advertised when it was first released. Back then I thought that the movie was going to be an overly sentimentalized film about a young robot being taught — in an almost cute fashion — to be “human.” Instead, that story (and that story is in there somewhere) is portrayed in the context of a South African crime-infested urban nightmare more on a par with Dredd than more conventional SF fare.
It’s not perfect and it does in many aspects lack originality. But the total package is different and occasionally weird enough to warrant attention.
Review copyright (c) 2016 by Dennis D. McDonald