Johannesburg, RPA. Since the local police department have been using robots produced by the Tetravaal Company and designed by their chief engineer Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), they have reduced the high mortality of cops and the rate of street crime. Still not everybody is clapping and cheering. The former military special ops soldier, Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), is envious of Deon’s success. Moore has developed his own project called Moose but Moose is big, ungainly and expensive – small wonder neither Tetravaal nor the police department are interested. Deon’s ‘scouts’ are more agile, user-friendly and cleverer too.
Deon, however, has another pet project. He’s just managed to create an Artificial Intelligence unit at home (DIY- mode, snicker, snicker) and is very eager to try it – after all he’s dreamed about it all his life. Unfortunately the Tetravaal’s CEO Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) asks him to abort it as she can’t see any potential for her company in it (honestly, no potential? Lady, how dumb can you get?) Still Deon perseveres; he uses a terminally damaged scout number 22, apparently irreparable so scheduled to be destroyed, to test his unique A.I. software. Bad luck follows Deon and his machine – right after stealing the robot he is kidnapped by a small band of thugs: Ninja, Yolandi and America. They are heavily armed and desperate for cash. When they see the damaged robot in the van, they force Deon to program it to heist banks with them and they call it Chappie (Sharlto Copley – voice and motion capture). However, Chappie acts like a small child and needs to be trained. Meanwhile Vincent follows Deon and plots an evil scheme to activate his robot by destroying the scouts. Who will prevail? Will Chappie be given an opportunity to develop all his potential?
There is such a thing as trying too hard, especially after an unprecedented initial success. You can’t enter the same river twice and a trick that once worked very well now might be not enough.
Neill Blomkamp managed to impress me with District 9 but completely failed to repeat that with Chappie. The movie was supposed to be funny, heart-warming and -rending and thought-provoking at the same time but I never got immersed in that story and, to be completely honest, it bored me after a short while. Plenty of characters I found annoying due to their utter flatness with the possible exception of the baddie played by Hugh Jackman. They were merely roles, as schematic as any Punch-and-Judy show. The Maker. The Villainous, Dumb CEO (and a woman to boot because women are not intelligent enough to be CEOs right?). Mommy and Daddy, she properly sweet and dressed in candy-coloured clothes to emphasize her motherly sweetness, he very gung-ho, even a bit brutal so properly tatooed. There was no connection between them, no chemistry – that’s not what I expect from a good movie. Also Chappie’s reactions, which should have been hilarious (all that contrast between a mind of an innocent child and a big, brutal, strong machine limbs) were just so-so.
The ‘documentary’ formula seemed a bit bland as well because let’s face it, it got old. Anyway if you have watched and liked District 9 here you are bound to be disappointed. Several CNN coverage snippets were not enough to create an illusion of a live story happening before your very eyes – something the director managed previously with such an ease.
Robocop meets E.T., they have a love child called Chappie, then everybody dies and they live happily ever after as machines – if such a premise appeals to you then maybe you’ll like the movie better than me. Maybe. For me it was a waste of time.