The toxic critical reaction to Neil Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi flick, Chappie, is understandable coming from those expecting the film to offer up a coherent social allegory, a coherent narrative or coherent action. It doesn’t deliver on those expectations. But once you recognise that the sharp satire of District 9’s opening half is an outlier rather than a template for Blomkamp’s filmmaking and that he’s really a big budget B-movie director, Chappie’s flaws become easier to forgive.
This unwieldy melange of Robocop, Short Circuit and Die Antwoord music videos is riddled with problems, true, but its tale of a robot learning to love and also to throw ninja stars is never boring. I’ll readily admit that Chappie veers wildly between attempts at allegorical resonance, criticism of modern policing and gonzo family drama before crashlanding into an ending that’s the apotheosis of selfishness. But it succeeds at being densely (in every sense of the word) entertaining while aggressively reminding you it’s not to be taken seriously.
If you want proof that this is a lark rather than any grand societal critique, remember this is a film where Die Antwoord’s Yo-Landi wears a clearly-professionally-made Chappie T-shirt. Just switch your brain off and enjoy.