Chappie (2015): Humanity’s Last Hope Isn’t Human

Posted: March 7, 2015 in Personal

Chappie_posterIn turbulent Johannesburg, the city’s police department has partnered with Tetravaal to supply robotic police force. The creator, Deon Wilson, is proud of his achievements but also seeks to advance his efforts to give the robots consciousness. Meanwhile, Vincent Moore is losing out with his Moose program, as his human-piloted mechs are too expensive and forceful to mass-produce. Deon decides to go against his boss’s wishes and steal the recently decommissioned No. 22 to test out his new consciousness program, but he is captured by three criminals looking to find a way to shut down the police robots. Deon convinces the group that there is no shutdown feature but that his program could allow them to train No. 22 with a clean slate. The newly conscious No. 22, nicknamed Chappie, starts to learn about life, for better or worse.

Review: This film tried to be a lot of things, unlike Neill Blomkamp’s hit District 9. That film was a review of conflicting civilizations and conflicts of identity. In contrast, Chappie was a referendum on sentient life. It was a commentary on violence and police force. It was a representation of parenting and the effect of the nurture side of the nature/nurture debate. Because it was less focused, it made the story a bit less cohesive.

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The casting was another interesting point of this film. Dev Patel (Deon Wilson) put forth a solid performance, mixed with moments of excitement and desperation. Hugh Jackman (Vincent Moore) was a bit more one-dimensional, but his brash persona played well as a counterpoint to Dev. As for the inclusion of Die Antwoord (Ninja and Yolanda), their acting was a little rough, but they played the part well as criminals desperate to get out from under a crime boss’s thumb. Sharlto Copley (Chappie) was a little hard to judge, but the overall performance seemed to be full of human emotion.

Focusing on Chappie himself, it was interesting to watch him essentially grow up on-screen. Learning to speak and understanding the world around him, Chappie’s development was much like that of a child. Moral reasoning was at a basic level, meaning that he developed his decision-making based on what others told him. He had Deon imprint a sense of non-violence on him, while Ninja remained focus on his goal of criminal activity. Chappie, though being a robot, was fooled into some criminal acts, but he eventually learned to distinguish between honorable and ulterior motives.

The film was flawed due to its unclear plot focus, but the gritty acting and intriguing development of Chappie made this a much more interesting story than critics have seemed to rate it.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

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