Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

Chappie (2015)

Directed by Neill Blomkamp

Starring Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel

Author

Intense, beautiful, emotional science fiction. Some of the silly, over-the-top characters made me a bit skeptical at first, but it builds nicely to a dramatic and exciting finish.

Blomkamp certainly has his style. He’s really good at combining a gritty, dystopian future with impressive special effects. I have no idea how they pulled off some of these effects. Chappie is wonderfully anthropomorphized. He’s as human and visibly emotional as some of Pixar’s non-human characters.

But I’m starting to wonder if Blomkamp can do anything else. Elysium was an opportunity for Blomkamp to make a different kind of movie, and it fell a bit short. To then make a movie with the same look, feel, characters, and themes as his previous film District 9 seems like a step backwards to me.

Influences from other movies are obvious. Like Short Circuit, this one’s about a robot (in this case, #22 instead of #5) who wants to stay alive. Like RoboCop, it features robots as law enforcement. And it’s a little silly how much Moose looks like the menacing ED-209 from RoboCop. Like Real Steel, it has Hugh Jackman remotely controlling a fighting robot. And like Avatar, it’s about the struggle to transfer consciousness from one body to another. The final shot even matches the final shot in Avatar almost exactly.

Why is there so much in common with these other films? Was Blomkamp paying homage to them? Or maybe it’s the nature of science fiction for different films to ask the same big scientific questions? In decades past, the big questions for science were space exploration and man’s relationships with robots, but maybe all of those questions have been answered and maybe all of those stories are stale. Science now has a new generation of questions about artificial intelligence and the nature of consciousness, and maybe it’s inevitable for science fiction films to resemble each other as they struggle to answer the same questions.

Good to see Patel doing something more gritty. He may actually have a career in Hollywood. Strange mix of accents, though. A quick explanation for why there was an American, an Australian, and an Indian named Wilson all working on a project on South Africa would have been helpful.

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