Chappie (2015): Johnny Five is Alive! .. no.. uh, wait, not Johnny. Chappie. Check.
Well, that was disappointing. I wasn’t expecting great, at all, but at least decent with maybe some heart… and the heart almost gets there, but falls flat due to writing that goes up and down and an overtly cartoonish villain that wasn’t fun at all to watch (though considerably better than the villain I couldn’t understand half the time in Elysium). Plus, Die Antwoord. At their best, they are merely passable, with the girl being the better of the two (and the guy sometimes bordering on cringe-worthy). Overall, though, it was a bad call to cast them in major roles.
Dev Patel, who I primarily remember as Neil from The Newsroom, does a good job here, despite some of the writing. He’s easily the best performed character in the cast. I liked him and Chappie and I just wish much of the rest of the movie could have been ejected for one that focuses more on them (especially if it means getting rid of at least one of the villains and Die Antwoord).
Speaking of villains, there are two (the drug lord and the hugh jackman character) that causes some problems. It seems like we have two movies haphazardly combined, to varying degrees of success and a large part of that is feeling the need to have the two villains. I could see someone like Quentin Tarintino doing this and I think he could pull it off… because he understands how to balance the different elements to create a largely seamless mix. Chappie is pulled between these two movies and that could have led to something more interesting… if successful. And obviously, it wasn’t.
Oh, and… subtitles for characters who were very clear in their dialogue, yet none for Chappie, whose lines were a bit muddy, at times. Still.. subtitles? For English speaking characters, in an English speaking country watching the movie? Was this meant as some kind of joke?
As usual, the technical side of things, such as the robots, as well as locations and overall the look of the film, in a Neil Blomkamp movie, all of that looks solid. I also appreciate that there are moments where the film wants to make everything seem so epic, even if it comes off a bit cheesy… still kind of fun. The robots are cool, especially the scout model that Chappie was.
The movie, as a whole, sort of works… as a kind of cross between Robocop and Short Circuit, but with as many up points as down points for Chappie, it doesn’t even come close to what made both Robocop (which had a kind of over the top flare mixed with commentary mixed with hyper violence with just enough heart for the title character to get us to care and sympathize for him) and Short Circuit (which was all heart) what they were.
I enjoyed the movie enough that I am still glad I saw it, unlike, say, Jupiter Ascending, but it might have been better to wait for ‘home video’.
LAST THOUGHTS: Chappie is basically an expensive, poor man’s Short Circuit put in a blender with Robocop.