If you take the robot movies of the past: “Short Circuit”; “Robocop”; “I, Robot”; “Wall-E”; “Metropolis”; “Star Wars”; “Transformers”; and “Pacific Rim”…
Mix in a dash of “District 9”, add in Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, and Dev Patel and you have the makings of “Chappie”, the new film hitting theaters this weekend from writer-director Neill Blomkamp, the creative genius who previously brought us “District 9” and “Elysium”.
Deon (Slumdog’s Dev Patel) works for weapons manufacturer Tetravaal and has developed a smart-robot that works with and protects the human police force in Johannesburg, South Africa in the near future, where crime is running rampant with drug lords and gangs.
He and Vincent Moore (X-men’s Hugh Jackman) work for purely profit driven Michelle Bradley (Alien’s Sigourney Weaver) but are competitive arch rivals, with Vincent jealous of the funding that Deon’s successful project is getting while his own pet project, which is reminiscent of the gigantic bad robot from “Robocop”, keeps getting shoved on the back burner by Bradley.
In his spare time at home, Deon has been working on the next advancement in robotics, to create sentient, artificial intelligence with feelings and independent, learning thoughts. When he achieves his goal of successfully loading his program, he begs Ms. Bradley to let him test it on a recently damaged robot that is scheduled for demolition due to it being damaged beyond repair with a fused battery fuel cell. Failing to see the weapons applications for a sensient, sensitive learning robot, she denies him permission to use the junk robot citing red tape involved for getting it released, but not one to give up easily, he steals it along with the “Guard Key” which allows the reprogramming of the robots.
While all of this has been going on at Tetravaal, there is feuding going on between the gangs that control the crime and drugs and a two-bit gang headed up by the heavily tattooed Ninja with his punkish girlfriend Yolandi (played by South African rap artists by the same names) and the latino Amerika (played by Jose Pablo Cantillo from “Walking Dead” and “Constantine” fame) come up with the brilliant idea of finding a way to turn off the machines using their obviously existent remote control. So they turn to the internet to discover that Deon was the inventor of the robots that are making their lives miserable and they decide to locate him and get the remote control from him.
“Chappie” is like an infant when he is brought to life and uploaded into the damaged robot unit. The character of Chappie was masterfully performed using motion capture technology by Sharlto Copley, most recently known for District 9, Elysium, and as Stefan in Maleficent. Starting out as a cowering, frightened, immature childlike machine, who has to be taught the meaning of words and how to speak and act, Chappie is full of potential, but unfortunately, due to the circumstances into which he was “born”, he gets conflicting guidance from his “maker”, Deon, and Ninja and Yolandi who he identifies as his Mommy and Daddy, and who has their own agenda for him.
With Chappie’s innocence and outrageous blunders he makes as he figures out what he is supposed to do and what is right and wrong, it is very difficult not to make comparisons to the classic intelligent robot movie, “SHORT CIRCUIT” from way back in 1986. There’s a cute robot with an endearing personality and an Indian scientist who made him and tries to teach him right from wrong.
“Chappie” is a cute movie, much like “Short Circuit” was, that scratches the surface of a plethora of questions regarding our humanity but it also has a very violent theme that earned it the “R” rating it deserves. Chappie asks his creator, Deon, “Why did you create me in an imperfect body that is dying?” which much of mankind asks our creator every day. I generally love any movie that has Dev Patel in it and I’m surprised that he has 2 movies hitting theaters in the same day, with the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel also opening this weekend. I really enjoyed him in HBO’s “The Newsroom” also. It was strange seeing the mulletted Hugh Jackman playing a bad guy for a change! I liked “Chappie” although I would have been disappointed if I had paid the extra money to see it in IMAX because I just don’t see it as an IMAX blockbuster movie. It has a nice endearing storyline with an interesting ending. Tell me what you think of it below in the comments!