By: D.R. Harward, Staff Writer
Chappie is a recent release from Sony Pictures that features Die Antwoord—an, until recently, deep-underground, South African techno rap duo. The story seemingly takes the plot line from the movie Short Circuit (one of the biggest hits of the 80’s), overlays the robo-pig concept from RoboCop, throws in a couple of bad guys straight outta Road Warrior and completes this sci-fi comedy/drama with an anti-hero rapper, or two, ala Tank Girl.
This classic conflict resolution film benefits from a splash of Sigourney Weaver (Aliens) and Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), which together with impressive CGI effects and set amidst the signature Johannesburg backdrop of writer/director Neill Blomkamp (District 9).
Chappie is a fun and irreverent blue-collar flick which does not pretend to be more than it is; an enjoyable and entertaining 120-minute diversion from everyday life. Blomkamp re-imagines the elements borrowed from past cinematic successes and blends each of them into his own fantastic creation that is at least as plausible as the plots of that plethora of comic-book based mega hits the movie-going public is so very fond of.
Set in the near future, this film imagines a world where all dangerous police activities have been regulated to a cadre of fully autonomous and completely obedient androids. The story revolves around Deon Wilson (played by Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame) the scientist credited for creating the near-artificial intelligence programming that facilitated the creation of the currently deployed police androids. In his spare time, Wilson tinkers with his pet project; trying to create a truly self-aware artificial intelligence (“AI”), capable of self-initiated learning and of having feelings.
After achieving theoretical success in a simulation, Wilson wants to try his new program out and requests to load it into a damaged police android that just came in for repair; but his boss (Sigourney Weaver) flatly denies his request. Feeling upset and betrayed, Deon rashly smuggles the damaged police android out of the building; only to be kidnapped as he is leaving by a crew of local petty criminals, headed up by Yolandi (Yolandi Visser) and Ninja (Watkin Tudor Jones), both playing their namesakes in the South African techno-gangsta rap group; Die Antwoord.
The criminals had been lying-in-wait for Wilson as part of a hare-brained plan to settle a debt owed to the psycho leader of a local gang of Mad Max imitators. Within minutes after the kidnapping, Wilson is ordered to upload his experimental AI program into the CPU of the damaged police-bot and Chappie is born. Wilson is freed, while Chappie stays as a hostage of sorts with Yolandi and Ninja; to whom he refers as “mommy” and “daddy” respectively. The humorous banter is likely to be largely under-appreciated by audiences outside of South Africa, due to the frequent use of authentic South African vernacular; which includes words borrowed from some of the twelve official languages of the southernmost African country.
In this screenplay, chaos is agitated by Hugh Jackman’s character, Vincent Moore, an evil co-worker in the story. Jackmans’ fans may not initially recognize him due to the mullet-style hair, aussie accent and costume reminiscent of fellow Aussie, the late Steve Irwin. Moore engineers an opportunity to discredit Wilson and take over as the top dog at their office.
Guys will dig the action and gals will be enamoured by the maternalistic interplay between Yolandi and the newborn Chappie. For those with hankering to see a good old fashioned sci fi comedy flick with a gangsta-robot twist, this is the movie for you. Chappie is a fun flick which doesn’t require your full attention to enjoy—a perfect date-movie. I give it 4 out of 5 stars and predict that it will soon become a certified(-able?) cult-classic.