Oh goodness, where to begin?
Well, let me start by saying that I loved Neill Blomkamp’s ‘District 9’ – it was on my Top 10 of 2009 list. And while I didn’t really like the Matt Damon’s pro-Obama-Care space station apologue, there was still a lot I admired about it. His latest science fiction picture ‘Crappie’, I mean. ‘Chappie’, like ‘Elysium’, is essentially the same movie as ‘District 9’ with a different coat of paint.
Set in Johannesburg, South Africa (where Mr. Blomkamp is from) in the near future (2016 to be exact), a group of Mad Max-esque gangsters get their hands on a police robot that has been modified to possess artificial intelligence and teach it to be a gangster, while its creator worries about the ramifications of this new, sentient being. Oh, and the gangsters name him Chappie. In other words, it is an awkward ‘Robocop’-‘Transcendence’-‘A:I’ amalgamation fully embodied by Jar Jar Binks of ‘Star Wars’ notoriety.
The wasted cast includes Dev Patel, Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman (and his hilarious mullet), and the South African hip-hop group Die Antwoord who I wasn’t aware of until I had seen this movie (hopefully their music is better than their acting). Sharlto Copley (a Mr. Blomkamp regular) voices the titular robot in the most exasperatingly whiny manner possible. If you don’t like this character from the very moment he is powered up, that is ok, because the movie appears to have utter contempt for him too – why else would it have this creation go through all that mortification, incivility, and mutilation throughout much of its two hour runtime? The tonal shifts are jarring. One moment, the film is playful (check out the bling-bling on Chappie); the next, his limbs are being sawed right off. Clinically, I believe this is referred to as dissociative identity disorder. Even if you’re laughing, you’re not proud about what you’re laughing at. Everything about this picture just seems plain wrong.
Sure, an argument can be made that justifies the ugly treatment of its nominal creation. The film’s tagline is “Humanity’s last hope isn’t human”. Chappie doesn’t save the world from an external threat. If it is supposed to be about Chappie saving us from ourselves, the nuances were lost on me; all I witnessed were some repugnant thugs using Chappie as part of their pathetic scheme.
Remember in ‘District 9’ how it was mentioned in dialogue that Nigerian prostitutes were servicing the aliens? That missing footage would have been preferable to anything transpiring on screen in ‘Chappie’. If ‘Wall’E’ ever got hold of ‘Chappie’, there would be nothing but a few scraps of metal and the backups of Chappie’s consciousness would be cauterized. It is only March and this is already the worst film of 2015.