Movie Review: ‘CHAPPIE’ – An Admirable But Short-Circuited Android Story


Preston Barta // Editor

CHAPPIE | 120 min | Rated R
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo and Sigourney Weaver

CHAPPIE isn’t quite the misstep to send Niell Blomkamp’s career the way of the Wachowskis (JUPITER ASCENDING), but it’s nowhere near the organic richness of Blomkamp’s first feature film, DISTRICT 9.

Set once again in Johannesburg in the near-future, CHAPPIE opens the same way DISTRICT 9 did, with mock news footage establishing how the police have commissioned an elite team of android crime-fighters (ROBOCOP style, which even sound like Peter Weller) in an attempt to restore law. These droids, called “Scouts,” are the brainchild of inventor Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), whose creation is hailed by Tetra Vaal‘s CEO (a pointless casting of Sigourney Weaver) to the consternation of a jealous colleague named Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman and mullet).

Vincent’s design, dubbed “The Moose,” is big; however, it requires a human pilot (like PACIFIC RIM). This idea isn’t fully realized yet, and understandably so, as it’s an expensive war machine. Deon and Vincent’s rivalry set in motion a series of events that bring Johannesburg on the brink of chaos, thus leading Deon to create the world’s first true artificial intelligence– Chappie (a terrific Sharlto Copley).

Despite its threadbare plot and obvious ROBOCOP nods (among other films of the genre), CHAPPIE is entertaining to boot. With its stunning urban landscapes, gangster-talking metal hero and all-party-in-the-back bad guy (Jackman), Blomkamp puts forth an admirable experimentation. Don’t expect a serious dead-on-point film like DISTRICT 9, but a fun, loving one that will both warm your heart and put a smile on your face.

It was announced just over a week ago that Blomkamp’s next film will be the latest installment in the ALIEN franchise. Although Blomkamp hasn’t since reached the same heights he did earlier in his career (when his creativity wasn’t clouded by Hollywood’s deep pockets), with CHAPPIE, the writer-director shows more promise and that he is heading in a direction to put his filmography back on track.

CHAPPIE opens tonight.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.