Chappie: Film Review


I love robot movies and I always end up caring more for the artificial intelligence than the humans, and this is definitely the case here. The characterisation of Chappie is brilliant and a robot I hadn’t really seen before – one that vows to never commit crimes but is persuaded towards violence and robbery by a group of drug-dealing gangsters. He is so sweet and clever despite the gangster lingo and expletives.

Chappie is created by developer Deon (Dev Patel), who has built an entire army of police ‘scouts’, a robotics force which has significantly reduced the crime rates in Johannesburg. Chappie is the next level – he has consciousness. He falls into the wrong hands when Deon is kidnapped by three criminals (two being Ninja and Yolandi from Die Antwoord) and forced to program Chappie to help them with a heist. Meanwhile, Deon’s competitor Vincent (Hugh Jackman) is trying to sabotage the police ‘scouts’ so the robotics company will use his model instead.

1251623 - Chappie

I loved Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 (I didn’t even bother seeing Elysium) and what I enjoy about them is that a fresh location is used, with quirky-looking actors, odd dialogue and random music. It’s so refreshing. South Africa is never used and we rarely hear that accent in film. Hiring the Die Antwoord stars was a risk as they have never acted before but their look seemed to work. They weren’t the best actors (Yolandi was especially noticeable towards the end) but their characters were so unique and funny at times that you enjoyed them regardless. I don’t know them well enough so I’m not sure if they were playing a parody of themselves – they kept their names, a lot of their music was used and the band’s name was on a T-shirt in the film.

It was great to see Hugh as a baddie, complete with mullet and Australian accent, but his character isn’t on screen as much as you would expect – same for Sigourney Weaver. None of the characters are particularly fleshed out but that didn’t bother me as the focus was on Chappie – watching him develop English and learn gangster behaviour by Ninja. In moments where he is hurt, I was seriously sad and in moments when he was bad and uncontrollable, I was willing him to stop. I loved the characterisation of Chappie and Sharlto Copley did a great voice and motion capture work.


I didn’t know exactly where the film was going to end up, which I liked, but the energy and direction did seem to flag a little towards the end until the next plot point arose which took me pleasantly by surprise. What I like about Chappie, and recently Ex Machina, is that they make us think what consciousness means. What makes us human? And in Chappie, it makes you wonder if we can be replicated into another body? The film ends in a place I would never have predicted and definitely has scope for a sequel (which Blomkamp wants to happen).

Some people have criticised Chappie for its clunky narrative and lack of characterisation and while I don’t disagree, I will say I enjoyed it regardless of those things. Chappie is the heart of this film and he is brilliant. I love a good robot movie and the ending makes it all worthwhile.

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