HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:89
Director Neill Blomkamp has only made 3 feature films so far, and each has ranged from mind-blowingly fantastic to horrible. After making a handful of short films that man became an overnight sensation with “District 9”, a low budget sci-fi movie set in South Africa dealing with the issues of social apartheid. Coming out of nowhere, “District 9” became a cult hit, and Neill the man to keep an eye on. Much eagerness and anticipation was present when it was announced that he would be creating a second film, this time a little movie named “Elysium” which dealt with issues of equality and health care. Unlike its predecessor, “Elysium” was about as subtle as a baseball bat upside the head and was wildly divisive. The film utilized an interesting concept, but failed to actually connect that concept in reality and instead it seemed to want to just beat people over the head with his political statement. Now that he has a THIRD movie set in South Africa, you can bet your britches that audiences (including myself) were a bit hesitant in greeting the film with open arms. Standing firmly in the middle between the bottom run that was “Elysium” and the awesome film that was “District 9”, “Chappie” manage to ask some very pointed questions at the audience as well as serve as some solid escapism entertainment.
In real life, Johannesburg is a cesspool of crime, with a carjacking happening once every 5 minutes according to my sources. In the fictional future the city appears to be keeping with that set of statistics. Crime is out of control and the city police have commissioned a private technology firm named Tetravaal (which is actually the name of Neill Blomkamp’s very first short film) to build completely humanoid robots that can act as a police force (hmmmm, where I have heard that before). These robotic police officers, named Scouts, are tasked with protecting human officers and wiping the floor with criminals. Everything is getting better, crime is down and human lives lost are also negligible. This all changes when the creator of the Scouts, a mousy little guy by the name of Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) decides to go off books and implement a little experiment. Deon has always envisioned more for his creations that just being mindless drones, and after his boss (played by Sigourney Weaver) shuts down his idea, he takes a scout body mean for the trash heap and uploads a perfectly self-aware A.I. into it.
Things go for a bit of a spin when Deon and his A.I. experiment are captured by a gang of thugs who want to use the robot to help them steal a ton of money to pay off ANOTHER gang boss. Since the robot is basically a newborn child, the thugs and Deon have to basically teach it from the ground up. This little happy family now is at odds with each other, as Deon wants his creation to grow up into a responsible “adult”, while the three thugs, weirdly named Ninja, Yolandi and Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo) dub the robot Chappie (Sharlto Copley) and plan on using him in their heist of an armored car. The film does what Neill Blompkamp does best, raise questions. In this case its very much nurture vs. nature as Blomkamp shows two polar opposite views. Deon is on one side, with the whole nature concept and going by protocol, while Ninja and Yolandi stumble around in the dark (much like real parents) and try their own flawed hand at raising the child like robot. Yolandi is the sweet unconditionally loving mother, while Ninja wants to use tough love and the school of hard knocks to teach Chappie.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=46601[/img]The main antagonist is less the thugs, but more from the maniacal efforts of a competing engineer named Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) who wants to use his highly militarized robots that can be controlled by a HUMAN mind. Jealous of Deon’s success and his failures, Vincent sabotages the Scout units and lets crime run wild so that he has the perfect opportunity to bring out his beast, code named “Moose” (and amusingly enough, the “Robocop” similarities get even stronger as “Moose” looks surprisingly similar to the ED-209 series) to quell the uprising.
Neill Blomkamp’s “Chappie” is a WHOLE LOT better than “Elysium”, but fails to rise to the level of “District 9”. It’s got a slightly higher budget than “District 9”, but the films greatest weakness is also the films greatest strength. Neill loves to mix in a lot of social commentary with his films, and “Chappie” is loaded down with questions about social dissonance, inequality, nature vs. nurture and even what makes one truly “human”. The only problem stems from the fact that Neill usually only ASKS the questions, as many of them aren’t exactly answered, but left up for the viewer to mull over. This is a great way to get the viewer to engage into the meat, or the purpose of the movie, but the other side of the coin is that many times it feels like Blomkamp’s films just peter out. The action is superb, and knowing that there isn’t a lot of answers, he fills the time up with some fantastic robotic action sequences that really make the film great as escapist sci-fi entertainment.
Dev Patel does a fantastic job as Deon and Hugh Jackman is superb as the crazy as all get out Vincent. The two are polar opposites and work as the perfect foil to each other. It also seems as if Sharlto Copley got his wish. After making “Maleficent” Sharlto made a comment about really getting tired of playing the type cast bad guy. Here he is the heart and soul of the movie, as he voices the timid robot “Chappie”. Full of exuberance and wonder at the world unfolding around him, Sharlto’s synthesized voice is what makes the viewer actually bond with and feel an attachment with the story. However, as good as he is, it sometimes is overshadowed by the horrible acting of Ninja and Yolandi. Neither of the two are actual actors, but rather the members of the trance/electronic rap duo known as “Die Antwoord”. It feels about as bad as having “50 Cent” in a movie, and with just poor acting skills. Every song of the film was sung by the duo and the grating “music” (if it can be called that) feels like one big plug for the band.
Rated R for violence, language and brief nudity
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=46609[/img]“Chappie” comes to Blu-ray disc via Sony Entertainment and their results are simply spectacular. The vibrant and grimy looking city of Johannesburg come alive as Neill Blomkamp blends digital wizardry with live action stunts and props all under the use of a measly 49 million dollar budget. The robots themselves look completely realistic, so completely so that I was wondering just HOW they did it. The robots are too thing to be humans in a suit, and not fake enough to be fully digital, leaving to consider that they really are sentient robots that Neill roped into making this movie! Colors are tinged with a blue overlay, especially noticeable in night time shots, and colors tend to lean towards earthy browns and greys. Chappie’s steel blue frame shows every nick and ding he acquires over the movie, while the sweaty trio of thugs look equally detailed, with the hot African sun making sweat trickle off the bodies as well as the bright array of colors coming from Ninja and Yolandi’s cooked out hideout. Black levels are strong and don’t seem to show off any of the black crush that some of Sony’s more recent titles have been suffering from. Excellent and perfectly demo worthy all the way around.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=46617[/img]Sony made an interesting decision giving “Chappie” a 7.1 DTS-HD MA track (as well as a French DTS-HD MA lossless track as well) being that the digital intermediary is home to a 5.1 mix. Upmixing the track into 7.1 gives a wildly robust experience as “Chappie” shows off some fine use of the surrounds and great blending of LFE and shifting directionality in the battle between robots vs. humans (vs. another robot as well). Dialog is clean and clear and allows for Hans Zimmer’s score to flow throughout the movie with even balance. The sequences with Die Antwoord’s songs coming in feel a bit jarring at first, but interestingly enough makes sense as the movie unfolds and the quirky acting melds with the crazy electronic rap. LFE is pounding and merciless. With deep waves of heavy bass accompanying the resulting battles and culminating in a wild battle of the bots in the third act. The surrounds are in constant play as you can hear the whining of gears in Chappie’s body and the clanking of metallic feet or the plinking of bullets bouncing off of a car. A stellar track, it comes in just under perfect.
• Alternate Ending
• Extended Scene: Very Bad Men
• From Tetra Vaal to Chappie
• Jozi: Real City and a Sci-Fi Setting
• Chappie: The Streetwise Professor
• We Are Tetravaal
• Keep it Gangster
• Rogue Robot: Deconstructing the Stunts and Special Effects
• Arms Race: The Weapons and Robots
• Bringing Chappie to Life: The Visual Effects
• The Reality of Robotics
• The Art of Chappie Gallery
“Chappie” is not exactly a brilliant new idea, as films about A.I. and the issues over what makes someone sentient and “human” have been asked and explored in a myriad of different films, especially relating to robots and cyborgs. Neill Blomkamp may not have created something new, but he has utilized his trademark social commentary methods and unique filming and casting style to create something interesting and certainly entertaining. For those of you wondering he has risen up to “District 9” level, I would say no, but it is certainly miles better than “Elsyium” and Sharlto Copley steals the movies heart with his portrayal of Chappie. Add to the mix a near flawless video and audio experience with a goodly amount of extras and I would highly recommend giving the film a watch.
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Ninja, Yolandi Visser
Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Written by: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, French DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish, Thai DD 5.1
Runtime: 120 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: June 16th 2015
Buy Chappie On Blu-ray at Amazon
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