CHAPPIE

Neill Blomkamp showed such promise with his first film. DISTRICT 9 was a fine example of modern sci-fi that was done on a budget, but didn’t look like it. The film was nominated for an Academy Award, so Blomkamp’s future looked very promising. That’s the problem with predictions. Blomkamp has turned into that Mark Fydrich, great rookie year and nothing much since. CHAPPIE is his latest effort to recapture the heart and magic of DISTRICT 9. Keep trying Neill. Somewhere in this morass is a movie with heart, but odd choices by Blomkamp keep the audience from fully engaging. The movie is set in South Africa of the future. Robots invented by Dev Patel have replaced humans on the Johannesburg police force to great success. Criminals are losing the battle. Then there is Hugh Jackman, a rival inventor who’s weapon system has been put on the back burner by the company’s CEO, Sigouney Weaver. Patel isn’t satisfied with his invention, he thinks he can create a sentient robot that can learn. He steals a damaged robot with the intent of making it his guinea pig. But on his way home, he’s carjacked by two thugs who reason that he can shut down all the robots so they can make a big score to repay a debt to a crime lord. Then Patel activates his robot and the criminals name him Chappie and at this point I wish I wasn’t sentient because my brain is exploding. Too many layers. Too much unnecessary plotting. Just too much to keep track of. Blomkamp needs an editor, or someone to tell him when things are going off the rails. Then there is the casting. Two little-known South African musicians play thugs. Ninja and Yo-landi Visser form the band Die Antwoord when not “acting”. In fact the majority of the songs in the movie were written and performed by the pair. But acting? Uh, not so much. The intent of their characters seems to be criminal, but somewhat sympathetic. Ninja and Visser don’t have the chops to pull that subtlety off. Blomkamp also cast another South African actor as the crime lord. His accent is so thick that Blomkamp translates his dialogue on screen so we can understand him. He might have used the same technique with Ninja and Visser because I lost some of their dialogue in the accent. Then there is Jackman. This is easily the worst thing he’s ever done. Bad mullet, bad acting. And why is he even here? His storyline adds to the confusion and is just fodder for Chappie’s climatic revenge scene. Ugh. I’m done. The more I think about this mess the more I dislike it. And that’s a big problem. — Alan Yudman

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