CHAPPIE (2015)

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In 2004 Neill Blomkamp made a short film called Tetra Vaal, about a weapons corporation who make police robots. It was smart, innovative and it looked incredible.

 

This short gave birth to the idea of Chappie, a robot designed to be law enforcement whose maker, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) discovers a way to give Chappie artificial intelligence. And so, Chappie is born, learning very quickly under the guidance/parenting of Wilson, Ninja and Yo-landi Visser (the South African hip hop outfit, Die Antwoord) and Yankie (Jose Pablo Cantillo from The Walking Dead), Chappie grows into an amalgam of moral sense and street-smarts.

Wilson works for the company Tetra Vaal, which is a weapons manufacturer run by Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) as does Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman sporting a haircut from the bogan barber). Wilson is an engineer at heart and wants to advance his research with the A.I. but is stopped by Bradley as she feels it is not worth the companies money. He goes ahead anyway downloading the consciousness into a robot headed for the scrap heap and fun ensues.

I was looking forward to this film a lot, having avoided Elysium due to poor reviews, I was excited about the prospect of Blomkamp revisiting his original story.

It is a fun film that isn’t amazing but manages to entertain. The problem is the script that is just not tight enough. There are holes and leaps that defy logic, and I’m not talking about putting consciousness into a machine, that, I can suspend my disbelief for, it’s more about the composition of the story-telling. It doesn’t quite gel. Jackman is uninspiring, not terrible, he can act, maybe he’s miscast or more likely, his role is not fleshed out enough, a stereotypical villain role.

The effects, like in District 9 are great, seeing Chappie go to work is a joy.

It is strange that Ninja and Yo-landi are ostensibly playing the characters they utilize in Die Antwoord and using their own names, an unnecessary choice on behalf of Blomkamp. It was fun seeing them do their thing, though.

The problem with Blomkamp’s work to date is the scriptage. D9 was so different that any qualms were quashed by the journey but here it feels that he has work to do. There is potential, masses of it, but it falls just a tad short.

Worth a watch if you are into sci-fi, robots and big concepts.

3/5

BUY THE BLU RAY DVD HERE

DOWNLOAD THE FILM ON iTUNES HERE

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DISTRICT 9 (2009)

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When this came out in 2009 it was with great anticipation and excitement.

Neill Blomkamp had previously directed a few short films Tetra Vaal, Yellow and Alive in Joburg.
The story goes that Peter Jackson had seen Blomkamp’s shorts including the wonderful Alive in Jo’Burg and ended up producing this very interesting sci-fi

The brilliant short film ‘Alive in Jo’Burg’ was a direct inspiration for D9 and came to the attention of Peter Jackson, who went on to produce this intelligent sci-fi film with a distinctly new take on the townships problems and making the residents literal aliens . He used real interviews with residents in the short film, asking them how they felt about Nigerians and Zimbabweans. This gave him the idea of replacing the humans with aliens as an allegory.

 

Watching Alive in Jo’Burg you can see the director’s strengths, the shaky cam making the effects much more believable. It is a brilliant short that was a fantastic calling card for Blomkamp.

Here, he elaborates on his short by creating a film that comments on racism in South Africa and putting the aliens into the townships, out of sight of the human residents.

In 1982 a massive alien craft comes to a standstill over Johannesburg and we find out that the aliens inside are starving and have no way of flying away, so, stranded, they are transported off the ship and relocated to a refugee camp that over the years becomes a militarized ghetto.

Wikkus Van De Merwe, brilliantly played by Sharlto Copley, works for MNU (Multi-National United), a weapons corporation, and, as he is married to the boss’s daughter, he is given the task of evicting the aliens to a concentration camp outside the city. This makes for some brilliantly realistic scenes of interaction between the aliens (all played by Jason Cope) all of which were predominantly improvised by Copley and Cope.

Wikkus is exposed to an alien formula that he has confiscated making his life very difficult as the effects of this become clear. Copley shows his range here throughout his journey and we see a character that is building and growing as he goes through his transformation.

If you haven’t seen this, I highly recommend it for a piece of innovative film-making and a welcome addition to the sci-fi world.

4/5

BUY THE FILM ON BLU RAY DVD HERE

DOWNLOAD THE FILM ON iTUNES HERE