Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie: Back to the District

Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie: Back to the District

Chappie is both a
technical marvel and a hard-driving, highly emotional film. So much of it works
that it’s a shame director/co-writer Neill Blomkamp can’t keep it on track to
the very end. Perhaps the biggest difference between it and Blomkamp’s exceptional
District 9 is that the earlier film
came as a complete surprise, from an unknown South African filmmaker, while
this one has a lot to live up to.

Its greatest achievement is the verisimilitude of its
visuals: as in District 9, you
believe the title character is absolutely real as he interacts with his human
costars. (In fact, District 9’s
breakout star, Sharlto Copley, performed on-set as Chappie with his fellow
actors; then animators painted him out and replaced him with the ultrarealistic

In the near-future world of Johannesburg, rampant crime has
been quelled by robotic cops, manufactured by a local company run by Sigourney
Weaver (every young sci-fi filmmaker’s heroine). Engineer Hugh Jackman has
built a prototype of a gigantic robot named Moose that could do the work of
a  squadron, but Weaver won’t OK it.
Meanwhile, staffer Dev Patel is experimenting with artificial intelligence, and
secretly inserts his test software into a damaged robocop that’s about to be
destroyed. With that, Chappie is born. Then Patel is kidnaped by some punk
hoodlums, played by Ninja and ¥o-Landi Vi$$er of the South African rap-rave
band Die Antwoord. They unexpectedly become Chappie’s “parents,” coaching him
to help them pull off a dangerous heist.

Chappie enters the movie as a complete innocent and quickly
wins our hearts. At first he’s a child, learning words and concepts, but as the
story progresses he becomes more self-aware. He not only has to choose between
right and wrong but determine his own fate as an artificial being in a
temporary body.

Despite echoes of District
and even older films like Short
, Chappie is an impressive
piece of work—until Blomkamp goes off the rails in a climax that doesn’t make
much sense. He also drags us through the mud, figuratively speaking, depicting
the ugliest form of humanity. Talk about a dystopian future! By the end of the
film, the scuzzbag guardians seem positively benign alongside the other
depraved characters we encounter. The idea of placing a naïve, even lovable
creature in the midst of this environment is a risk that doesn’t entirely pay
off. But with the geniuses of Peter Jackson’s WETA workshop involved, Chappie convinces us that it could
actually happen.

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I too enjoyed this film very much – so much so I plan to buy on Blu-Ray (also enjoyed District 9 which I also own). The realism & emotion of this character just brings home how much artificial intelligence really is our future & sooner than we think.


Movie was designed to be escapism. And the on-going struggle of right and wrong — this time determined by Artificial Intelligence (a theme that will be explored many times in this year’s motion-pictures) which is "theorized" as the doomsday bomb of human society. Explored pre-Bradbury and Asimov, the subject is re-explored through another artistic viewpoint. Maltin’s reviews are generally on the movie (at least, with my opinions after watching the same movie) and everyone it entitled to an opinion. I for one enjoyed the film for what it was. Sparked discussion over dinner with friends.

Cuthbert Ebert

Okay JEFFREY (the full-of-himself clown below) we’ll value your opinion more than Leonard’s.


Sounds like Mr. Maltin almost completely bought into this film, hook, like and sinker! This is an early bad sign and one that I hope gets dispelled.

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