Chappie Blu-ray Review
I think it’s time we acknowledge that Neill Blomkamp’s directorial debut DISTRICT 9 might have been a flash in the pan and not a sign that the next great science fiction director had arrived. DISTRICT 9 was original, unique, thought-provoking, intelligent and entertaining at the same time. But his follow-ups, ELYSIUM and now CHAPPIE haven’t been able to match those adjectives. I gave him the benefit of the doubt with ELYSIUM, but CHAPPIE is a misfire on every level.
In the near future, crime in South Africa is managed by a group of robots designed by Deon (Dev Patel). Branded a genius developer by his peers, Deon is upset that he can’t test out a new level of artificial intelligence on one of the robots and so he decides to take matters into his own hands. Meanwhile, small time thugs Ninja and Yolandi (the South African rap/rave group Die Antwood) are frustrated they can’t continue their life of crime because of the robots and decide to kidnap Deon so they can get control of the robots. But after their misguided intentions are realized, they settle on the compromise that Deon will give his new AI test to them so they can program him to do what they want.
When the program is first loaded into Chappie, he’s very much like a newborn baby or toddler. This starts the manipulation Blomkamp does on the audience by creating an inanimate object that has feelings and human traits we relate to. The things Ninja does to Chappie would be terrible if they were done to a child, but the truth is, they were done to a robot. To make matters worse, Blomkamp introduces a comic villain named Vincent, played by a very out of place Hugh Jackman. Vincent is motivated by jealousy and rage against Deon and his goal is to destroy Chappie, thinking him an abomination.
We have some decent themes that are very poorly explored. The idea that one is a product of their upbringing and their environment is really what CHAPPIE is about, but that theme is never fully developed and any time Blomkamp got close to giving the film deeper meaning, he abandoned it for some mild action. Vincent is there to give the counter argument against artificial intelligence, but his character is so comically villainous that we can’t take him seriously. Finally, the ending could have explored all kinds of deeper themes about what a soul is and how it separates humans from machines, but again, it was too lazy and underdeveloped.
Although I found myself suckered into feeling sorry for Chappie, I struggled caring about anything or anyone else in the film. The last 20 minutes or so try to create sympathy for Ninja, who up to that point had been a terrible person and eventually, but it was more frustrating than anything else. Chappie was a poorly developed character that was a reflection of his bad situation and in general, the movie was a disappointing effort from a director that had shown so much promise.
Video: CHAPPIE looks beautiful on Blu-ray.
Audio: The audio was fine.
Making of Chappie featuettes (1:19:25): There are 9 individual featurettes included on the Blu-ray and I’ve lumped them all together because they essentially all focus on the making of the film. I enjoyed “Bringing Chappie to Life: The Visual Effects” the most, which as you may have guessed, focused on the visual effects. But all of them effectively explore various aspects of the making of the film.
Alternate Ending (5:15): This isn’t much of an alternative ending.
Extended Scene: Very Bad Men (1:30): A little more Chappie for those that couldn’t get enough.
Previews and The Art of Chappie gallery