Director: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Sharlto Copley (voice), Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver
Run Time: 120 mins
‘CHAPPiE’ is the third feature film from South African director Neill Blomkamp, behind the masterful ‘District 9’ and solid, but not great ‘Elysium’ and once again, Blomkamp reunites with actor Sharlto Copley who played the lead role, Wikus van de Merwe in ‘District 9’ and the over-the-top bad guy Agent Kruger in ‘Elysium’. Here Copley provides the voice and motion capture for CHAPPiE. Blomkamp seems to be sticking to his guns here, ‘CHAPPiE’ seems to be very familiar territory – science fiction set in the heart of Johannesburg, some big ideas, news interviews to aid the story and another Kruger character in the form of mullet-headed Aussie Vincent Moore played by Hugh Jackman, who seems to be having a lot of fun here. Throw in a failing society, in this case, Johannesburg is a city plagued with crime with a company led by Sigourney Weaver in more of a glorified cameo, where crime is kept to a low by a robotic police force and finally, the first of these robots is created by Deon Wilson, played by Dev Patel, that can think and feel for itself. Granted, on paper, this premise doesn’t sound entirely original, but judging from Blomkamp’s previous work, it should at least be fun. Right?
‘CHAPPiE’ may be quirky and a bit of an oddball, but this film is elevated with its tremendous, refreshing warm heart and again, Blomkamp really does get the audience to think with a lot of thought-provoking questions. It is very entertaining and the cast seem to be having a lot of fun here, and even the rave rap duo of Die Antwoord aren’t too bad! The film is supplemented by a completely bombastic, yet memorable score by Hans Zimmer which really fits the film.
The premise might be tired but this film injects new life to the genre and puts a new spin to it with its thoughtful questions and the ending is masterful and very satisfying. It’s funny, it’s entertaining and requires the audience to think, which in my opinion, ticks all the right boxes.
Sharlto Copley is fantastic as the titular character who is developed quite a lot and the audience really feel for it. From his oddball design to him using expletives is mesmerising to watch and Copley manages to convey the character’s emotion in a way that really connects with the audience. Dev Patel and Sigourney Weaver play their roles competently, but it’s Hugh Jackman that is the other cast member who shines and he seems to be really enjoying himself here as mullet-headed, hot-blooded Vincent, a co-worker of Patel’s character, Deon Wilson, who’s MOOSE project never got traction and so is supremely jealous of him.
What genuinely baffles me is the film’s very lukewarm critical reception which is completely undeserved and the film has clearly been misunderstood – it is this year’s, ‘Transcendence’, a film released last year that again was received negatively by critic’s which I found to be a really good film that posed some thoughtful questions. The marketing for ‘CHAPPiE’ has arguably been very poor and the trailers don’t do the film justice, nor do they even hint at the direction that the film goes in, which is a good thing but perhaps this is why the film has been misunderstood, due to its misleading marketing.
Overall, ‘CHAPPiE’ is a very solid third feature by director Neill Blomkamp which has unfortunately been let down by very poor marketing and has been completely misunderstood by critics. It is entertaining, fun and poses some really thoughtful questions. It’s not without its weaknesses, the film does take half an hour or so to get into its swing, but when it does, the film travels at a rip-roaring pace and is ultimately very satisfying. The entire cast seem to be having a lot of fun and Hans Zimmer’s score is innovative and quirky, supplementing the quirkiness of the film itself. Blomkamp should feel very pleased with himself and it will be interesting to see which direction Blomkamp takes the ‘Alien’ franchise in with his just-greenlit sequel.