Chappie (2015)

Chappie (2015)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.

2.5 stars

7 thoughts on “Chappie (2015)

  1. A very strange flick indeed. However, it was one that found certain, small ways to surprise me with almost every step. Which is something I’d like more of, definitely. Nice review.

    • Yeah, its unpredictability was a large part of the appeal for me. Like, it’s all over the shop, but you never feel like it was built step-by-step from a How To Write A Hollywood Screenplay guide like so many other films of this ilk.

  2. Very interesting take Dave. I’d argue though that there were just far too many scenes of hard-hitting violence and the characters being all-out deplorable for this movie to not be taken too seriously. Blomkamp is clearly trying to unify global audiences under the notion that we need to change our ways. Or something. Maybe I am thinking too deeply about it, and perhaps your’e right that the opening half of District 9 was nothing more than a ‘fluke,’ but I’d like to say he’s been working to get back to that point ever since. I don’t like to think his best film is behind him. He’s an interesting filmmaker to be sure, though. I’ll have to think about Chappie a little more after reading this, as I know I was hard as hell on the film!

    • Hey, you only gave it 3/8 – I’ve seen plenty worse review scores than that! I agree that the characters were wall-to-wall unlikeable, but that’s a pretty common trend in B-movies, right? I dunno, there might be some intentionality vis a vis allegory etcetera here, but I’d prefer to focus on the stuff that works – its gonzo maximalism – rather than the stuff that doesn’t. It’s definitely not a great, or even particularly good, film, but I didn’t hate it.

      • Very fair, points I all have to agree with. It’s also good to see some people level a balanced critique at the film lol.

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