Saturday, March 7, 2015

Movie Review -- Chappie

James is in the hospital this week, but never fear; I'm here with a review of Neil Blomkamp's latest film, Chappie. Blomkamp previously brought us District 9 and Elysium. Is Chappie as good? Let's find out.

The movie takes place one year from now in the South African city of Johannesburg. Technology giant Tetravaal has created robots and is selling them to Johannesburg as a police force. There are two types of robots, the Scouts, which are human-size, and the Moose, which is more like a walking tank. The Scouts are the preferred choice of the Johannesburg police, and the Moose has yet to be approved for deployment as it is seen as overkill.

The Scouts are the brain child of Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), who isn't satisfied with creating mere robots. He's actually been working on a program to create true artificial intelligence, and he manages to finish it. Now, he hopes, he can create a machine that can feel and be artistic. However, his boss Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) sees no value in a weapons company developing such a robot, and won't let him test it. Nonetheless, he decides to go behind her back and install the program in the recently decommissioned Scout #0022. 

But before he can do so, he's kidnapped by local hoodlums who want to shut down the Scouts so they can pull off a big heist without fear of police interference. Deon explains there is no off switch for his robots, but if they'll let him install his new program in #0022, he can teach the machine to assist them. They let him do it, and its comes online with the mind of a child. Rechristened Chappie, the droid employs his new sense of wonder and begins learning all sorts of things. Deon is excited, but also concerned; Chappie's new owners are taking him down a dark path of crime and discouraging him from exploring his artistic side.

Meanwhile, Deon's coworker Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) sees the Scouts as a threat to funding for the Moose (his project), and wants to get rid of Chappie...permanently. Deon resolves to save his creation, but is he in over his head? And can an unlikely alliance overcome the deadly obstacles Vincent throws at them?

Chappie is a stylish film, and I like that it's set in an out of the way place like Johannesburg (District 9 was also set there). This particular city is a pretty cool location if I do say so myself. However, I don't feel this movie is as good as District 9 (I never saw Elysium, so I can't comment on that one). Whereas District 9 was a fresh take on aliens, Chappie is more like District 9 Lite With Robots. It has some cool and definitely entertaining action scenes, but overall, it doesn't bring enough new ideas to the table. The premise of a robot learning humanity has been done to death, and I just don't see Blomkamp taking it in any new directions here.

Don't get me wrong; I like Chappie. I think it's an entertaining film. I just don't think it realizes its full potential,

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