Review: CHAPPIE (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Review: CHAPPIE (2015)

Despite the familiarity of the genre involving a robot trying to be human, writer-director Neill Blomkamp's subtle mix of gritty realism and wonderful comic relief makes CHAPPIE a solid entertainment.

After receiving mixed reviews from viewers and critics in ELYSIUM (2013), writer-director Neill Blomkamp finally returned to form in CHAPPIE -- a typical but captivating robot movie that combines the elements of SHORT CIRCUIT (1986), ROBOCOP (1987) and A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (2001).


Set in the near future of Johannesburg, the introduction of the TetraVaal's law-enforcing robot program known as Scouts has successfully helped the South African police force fight against deadly criminals throughout the city. During one of the police raids, a robot codenamed Scout 22 ends up badly damaged after getting fired into the chest.

Deon (Dev Patel), a developer who is responsible for creating the Scouts, planned to use the dysfunctional Scout 22 as his latest experiment to make him learn and feel like a human being. However, his proposed idea is rejected by the CEO of TetraVaal, Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) and leaves Deon no choice but to smuggle the robot out of the lab himself. Things get worse from there when a trio of desperate gangsters -- Ninja (Ninja), Yolandi (Yo-Landi Visser) and Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo) -- kidnapped Deon and forces him to reprogram the robot so it can help them commit an upcoming heist.

Meanwhile, Deon's disgruntled co-worker and developer Vincent (Hugh Jackman) subsequently learns about Deon steals the robot away and finds an opportunity to sabotage his reputation, so he can convince Michelle to use his giant robot known as Moose to become the new mechanised police force.


Over his past two movies (DISTRICT 9 and ELYSIUM), Neill Blomkamp is primarily known as a visionary filmmaker who favours gritty and realistic sci-fi genre with sociopolitical context. But in his third feature on CHAPPIE, Blomkamp and his co-writer Terri Tatchell are bold enough to go further by integrating SHORT CIRCUIT-like lighthearted comedy element and A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE-like heartfelt "robot-with-a-human-consciousness" storyline set within the chaotic nature of the crime-infested Johannesburg with equal success.

Although CHAPPIE shares many resemblances with ROBOCOP in terms of its visual aesthetics (e.g. Moose, which looks almost identical to ED-209) as well as its plot and character element (e.g. Jackman's character echoes the similarity of Ronny Cox's slimy character as Richard Jones), it's far from a cheap rip-off. Instead, the ROBOCOP-like formula works well with Blomkamp's filmmaking style.

Likewise, Blomkamp's direction is tense while displaying a great visual flair for gory action set-pieces and cool slow-motion effects. Hans Zimmer's synthesiser-heavy score is mesmerising, which reminds me of Vangelis' iconic BLADE RUNNER score. Kudos also go to the amazingly seamless special effects between the robots and the background in the movie.

The cast is impressive, with Dev Patel and Hugh Jackman -- in his rare bad-guy role -- are both noteworthy. Despite appearing only in a small role, Sigourney Weaver is equally memorable as the cold-hearted and profit-hungry CEO of TetraVaal. But it was the South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord -- Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser --- who steal most of the show with their flashy, yet surprisingly likable performances playing two violent but sympathetic low-life gangsters. The other scene-stealer is, of course, Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley, who provides a delightfully childlike and naive voice performance as Chappie.


The hilarious Grand Theft Auto-like moments where Chappie helps his "daddy", Ninja, to hijack cars around the streets; and the action-packed finale involving Chappie against Moose.

Blomkamp's same old sociopolitical context related to social disorder and crime wave in Johannesburg starts to feel tedious by now, especially such topic is already covered twice in DISTRICT 9 and ELYSIUM.


Although Neill Blomkamp offers nothing new in a robot movie, CHAPPIE is satisfying enough as one of the best genre movies of its kind.

This review is written courtesy from Sony Pictures Malaysia IMAX press screening *  

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