A Zef Day’s Night
Wolverine Dundee in Johannesburg
a kindly review of Chappie
by David Clemmer
I’m going to address the elephant in the room: Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie is totally a gritty reboot of the 1986 sci-fi comedy Short Circuit. To say it’s a ripoff is going too far, as is labeling Chappie as wholly unoriginal. But it’s as if Blomkamp and the makers of Short Circuit played the same Mad Lib.
A robot that is part of a(n) EXPERIMENTAL SECURITY FORCE gains sentience BY TOTAL ACCIDENT and is whisked away into the city of ASTORIA, OREGON to learn from plucky real-world person/people, ALLY SHEEDY. The real-world person/people clashes with one of the robot’s creators WHITE ACTOR FISHER STEVENS PLAYING AN INDIAN MAN but ultimately join in the effort against a more powerful member of the robot’s origins, NERDY LITTLE AUSTIN PENDLETON. Things happen that are TOTALLY UNREALISTIC and everyone LIVES HAPPILY EVER AFTER.
A robot that is part of a(n) EXPERIMENTAL SECURITY FORCE gains sentience TOTALLY ON PURPOSE and is whisked away into the city of JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA to learn from plucky real-world person/people, FUCKING DIE ANTWOORD BECAUSE WHY NOT. The real-world person/people clashes with one of the robot’s creators ACTUAL MAN OF INDIAN DESCENT DEV PATEL but ultimately join in the effort against a more powerful member of the robot’s origins, HUGE ACTMAN. Things happen that are TOTALLY UNREALISTIC and everyone [spoilers redacted].
Such a story is, yeah, formulaic, but it works in both cases. Chappie, in his new life, faces more moralistic obstacles, and ultimately becomes the more fascinating character to follow through a story—if not the more lovable. That isn’t to say that Chappie doesn’t endear; his first moments of sentience and the incunabulum of his learning are actually very endearing and are effectual in guiding you along his journey. Endearment is fully realized in Chappie’s first encounter with violence, which goes after your heartstrings with a fucking harpoon.
Your kindly reviewer is not a fan of Die Antwoord’s music at all, and so didn’t have high expectations for some dumb and ultimately snobby reason, probably. But Ninja and Yolandi, playing themselves, are more than believable and engaging in their roles in this movie, and almost steal the show from the sentient robot who walks with swagger and wears bling reading ‘hustler.’ Their gang hideout is a shrine to their real-world selves, they listen to Die Antwoord, their photos are pinned up on the walls. It’s like instead of chasing Paul’s grandfather around London while they tried to put on a televised appearance, A Hard Days Night was a heist film with mechs and guns. It works, though, in this movie. And they can act; there were actually a couple moments from Ninja in particular that were a little goosebump-inducing.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is, as Robbie calls him, Huge Actman.
(sigh) Crikey. Throw a shrimp on the barbie and tie your kangaroo down, boys, because Actman is every Australian goddamn stereotype you can think of if all you’ve seen is Crocodile Dundee and Rescuers Down Under. The man wears T-shirts tucked into cargo shorts, open-carries weapons, and calls Chappie a ‘joey.’ And Actman is a man your kindly reviewer has liked in numerous movies; Huge can act, man. But he has, I was given a crappy role written all over his face in this movie—and he was. Vincent Moore is a mustache-twirler, if anything, and oh my god his hair. His hair. His fucking hair, dude.
This brings us to the movie’s chief flaw: the screenplay, the words that come out of the actors’ mouths. It is, at some of the most crucial times, sloppy, ramshackle, sort of uncomfortable. Again to the credit of Die Antwoord, their lines were written and executed better than anyone else’s in the movie, maybe second only to Sharlto Copley (the voice of Chappie). There were times when the things being said made your kindly review ell oh ell and ess his aytch. Given the already basic story, the movie goes on a steady decline as far as plot goes. Let me just say this: until kind of late in Act III, the sole source of tension is Ninja’s abdomen (it actually says ‘Ten$ion’ there; I’m kinda making a joke or something, but, ah, whatever).
Chappie is not a loss, though. The third act is rife with some pretty engaging action scenes, and the visuals throughout the film are attractive and colorful. And I am a supporter of a story not necessarily relying on high tension in order to be told; sometimes a thing can be interesting without making you worry about it. It moves at a steady limp. Despite its flaws in delivery, the movie has spirit.
YOU KNOW, KIND OF LIKE THE ROBOT? BECAUSE OF THE—yeah, you get it.
10/17 pink pastel things
3/5 yellow pastel things
7/13 blue pastel things