Chappie: Top Quality Action Sci-fi

Chappie: Top Quality Action Sci-fi

(Some Spoilers Included) Chappie is a sci-fi action film and the third feature length from Writer and Director Neill Blomkamp. Blomkamp is known for immense sci-fi action with an emotional core. Chappie provides all that and a tinge of humour to make it perhaps Blomkamp’s most enjoyable film yet.

The story once again takes place in a near future Johannesburg in South Africa. It is in an era that has recently eradicated crime and corruption by mostly eliminating the human element in combatting criminals. What it is replaced with are highly sophisticated robots called Scouts.

These robots were developed by the tech company Tetrevaal, and more specifically the Lead Developer Deon Wilson (Dev Patel). In the beginning the Scouts are tools that lead the charge into deadly firefights and act as cover for human officers, but Deon sees this as only a small step in accomplishing his grander project of creating artificial intelligence.

Vincent Moore is another major character who is played by Hugh Jackman. He is the Lead Developer of the first and failed robotic police unit called the Moose, which used human thoughts to control robotic actions instead of working from programming.

He is envious of Deon’s success and bitter that no one wants his invention, which has caused budget cuts making it only harder to improve. But like Vincent the Moose is a soldier, and this doesn’t make him an ideal robotic police officer.

The film opens with a car chase as a group of criminals desperately seek shelter after a job gone wrong. They meet with their boss (Hippo) who isn’t too happy and kills one of their friends. In fear of their own lives they plead for another way, and Hippo demands the ludicrous amount of $20million in 7 days.

chappie screenshot

Desperation leads Ninja, Amerika, and Yo-Landi to kidnap Deon so they can shut down the Scout units and steal the money they need unmolested. Due to their ignorance of the inner-workings of Tetrevaal’s security measures they find out that it isn’t possible for Deon to simply shut them off. What Deon does have is a mangled Scout unit in the back of a company van and the key to birthing a conscious robot.

This brand new AI called Chappie (Sharlto Copley), acts as if it were a rapidly adapting newborn human child. It is initially scared of its unfamiliar surroundings; it must learn language, objects, and concepts, and is very impressionable in the early stages. Ninja and his crew decide to teach this formerly rigid, robotic, law maker to be a deadly gangster henchman for their criminal needs. 

Chappie is filled with big action, hilarious moments, and is overall a really fun movie that can also present some interesting thoughts on the application of AI and whether or not we can or should control them.

Dev Patel (as Deon) provided a great performance as an ambitious and invigorated scientist crossing the unfathomable precipice towards creating a conscious being. The character himself was responsible for the moulding of Chappie’s moral centre, and expressed it with such thoughtful passion, which was represented so well in Dev’s performance.

chappie armed

Sigourney Weaver (as Michelle Bradley) was nice to see but she didn’t really have a big part in the film and nor was it a particularly impactful performance. Nothing about it was bad, but there was nothing that stood out.

Hugh Jackman (as Vincent) had a great performance as the bitter co-worker and creator of the second rate robotic technology. Unable to sell his magnum opus to the police force due to the ubiquitously successful Scout robot, he is full of anger and resentment towards Deon and because of this looks for flaws and missteps that could lead to the Scout or even Deon being decommissioned. Hugh did a perfect job in this role as he is intimidating in his stature and looks the part of a deadly ex-soldier. It was a well-acted performance that brought out a villainous side of him we haven’t seen too often.

There was an interesting structure of good and bad characters. You would think the criminals would be the outright bad guys but the circumstances of the story derail that idea as the audience spends time with them. You can sympathize with most of them and learn to like them in some ways as they develop this family structure with Yo-Landi like a mother, Ninja like the father, and Amerika like a sort of uncle.

You would think that Vincent and Deon would be the major part of the story delving more into the thoughtful ideas surrounding artificial intelligence. Chappie instead went down a different route that put humour and action at the forefront and provided something that separates it from the market saturated with exactly the ideas they diverted from.

What make this movie great beyond just the action sci-fi genre was the emotional moments stemming from Chappie. His childlike demeanour and innocence brings us close to him, and as he grows and learns we mourn with him through the human duplicity and betrayal.

There was a great job in creating Chappie into this emoting, innocent child-like robot. Beyond just the excellent and really fun performance by Sharlto Copley, the physicality of Chappie also built his personality. The antennas that appear like cute little ears, adapting his language and behaviour to those around him, all makes for a hilarious combination of naiveté and gangster behaviour.

Chappie closes with a booming, spectacular climax that is not without a semi-philosophical dénouement to satisfy all needs in the action sci-fi genre.

Owen Shaw

Owen Shaw is a freelance writer from Toronto, Canada. When he is not consuming all Movies and TV shows in existence, good or bad, he is writing about it with a sincere passion for the art form. You can follow his exploits on Twitter (@_Owen_Shaw_).

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