Film Review: CHAPPiE

by Gordon Elgart on March 6, 2015

I hated every character in this movie, including the stupid robot.

Chappie stars as CHAPPiE

Chappie stars as CHAPPiE

Let’s get what’s good about this movie out of the way quickly. It won’t take long. The effects are amazing. It’s incredible to think about how far we’ve come with effects, where you can watch a robot walk, talk and fight, and never for a moment think that it’s just a CGI creation. The visual effects team nailed it, and I would be absolutely OK with them winning whatever awards, or garnering any accolades, because they deserve it. Holy crap. The rest of the movie? I can’t believe I made it to the end.

Neil Blomkamp’s newest film, CHAPPiE (the small “i” a throwback to CHiPS, I hope?), is a walking, talking, fighting disaster. It’s a mess of annoying characters doing one dumb thing after another, all while trying to make us care about the most annoying robot ever put on screen. I spent most of the last half of the movie waiting for it to end. Won’t someone put these horrible people out of their misery? Why are they still here?

The movie opens with Anderson Cooper narrating a fake news story to give us the exposition we need. Some corporation, with dumb as nails Sigourney Weaver as its CEO, has designed some robocops scouts to fight crime in Johannesburg. Insanely stupid Dev Patel is the genius who invented these robots, and Hugh Jackman is the dumb jock who tosses around a rugby ball and is all butt-hurt because OCP won’t build the ED-209 that he’s designed. So he does realistic things like threaten Dev Patel with a gun inside of an office, with no repercussions whatsoever because the CEO is busy making terrible decisions about robotic intelligence. She apparently fears intelligence, because she’s in this movie.

Meanwhile, in a part of town that looks suspiciously like a Die Antwoord video, the members of Die Antwoord are sitting around listening to Die Antwoord music, dreaming of pulling off a heist so that they can pay back this Very Bad Gangster, who they don’t like because he doesn’t listen to Die Antwoord, I guess? They decide they need the remote control that turns off the robocops scouts, so they kidnap Dev Patel and threaten to kill him a lot because they like to threaten people a lot. They enjoy doing this more than anything else, I think.

Oh yeah, what about the robot? Die Antwoord decides they need the robot to pull off crimes for them, but this is no ordinary robot, this is a learning robot that when switched on, will be a baby who has to be taught. But who will teach the robot? Its maker who wants an artistic killer robot? Or mommy and daddy Antwoord, who want a culturally appropriated gangsta killer robot? What if this were the main conflict of the film? Does this sound interesting? Too bad! We need to kill some people and blow stuff up and have untapped potential instead. Enjoy your movie!

Some films are noble failures, where the filmmaker has something to say, tries to say it, and fails. This film is a different kind of failure — its filmmaker has nothing to say, and tries really hard to make you think he does. I’m very glad this movie finally ended. Give the visual effects team an Oscar, but please don’t show me any clips at the awards show.

CHAPPiE opens in theaters today.


Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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