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ikkegoemikke's Movie Reviews (481)

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Chappie 
A trashy cyber spectacle with flashy action
2.5/4 stars

What do you mean, "reprogram him"?
Don't play dumb! You know exactly what we mean.
Turn that robot into the illest gangsta on the block.

The number of robots used in a science fiction is uncountable. Some of them can easily be classified under the label "A sad, technical case". R2D2 in "Star Wars" was a pathetic robot most of the time. Twiki from "Buck Rogers" was a helpless phenomenon. David from "AI" was a terribly sad cyborg with the sole desire to become a real boy. Even Ava in "Ex Machina" was a sad piece of electronics searching for freedom. But "Chappie" (so called because allegedly he was "a happy chappie") easily beats them all when it comes to pettiness. I almost fell sorry for him. For the first time the gloomy existence of a robot was displayed. Doom and gloom all over the place. Chappie the outcast who began his career as an intervention robot to protect the civilian population against the ever rising crime, and whose final destination became the scrap heap after another impact of an explosive. And he ends up as a helpless artificially intelligent robot in the midst of a group of gangsters who start educating this childlike electronic device to become a gangsta. Just so he can help out in repaying a debt.

The last year there were quite some movies about artificial intelligence and the emergence of a consciousness in mechanical and electronic creations. "The Machine", "Automata" and "Ex Machina" are recent films using this main theme. The ability to transfer one's consciousness to a storage medium or an operating system such as in "Transcendence" is the other part which is subject to speculation. That's the leitmotiv throughout this cyberpunk story of Neill Blomkamp, the creative director from South Africa who tried to convey a socially critical message in "Elysium". Personally, I thought "Elysium" was a pretty good movie (I haven't seen "District 9" though). To quote myself : "A first-rate SF with extremely titillating images with a social message and mixed with a touching theme that calls for a happy ending. ". Obviously I was looking forward to "Chappie".

Visually it looks pretty decent. "Chappie" itself is one elaborated robot. Just look at the eyes formed by small pixel-like animations on two screens. A kind of extended "Short Circuit" robot, but without caterpillar tracks. No human appearance, but ultimately there are some kind of human feelings inside that metal body. Unfortunately, the similarity to the story of "Robocop" is a little bit too obvious. The rivalry between Deon (Dev "Slumdog Millionaire" Patel) and Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) was also used in Verhoeven's film. Deon is the designer of the successful robots like Chappie. And Vincent is trying (in a somewhat violent way) to impose his design called "Moose", a machine controlled by a human operator. The similarities between the "Moose" and the ED-209 are striking. The inevitable clash is more realistic, looks flashier and more action-packed than in "Robocop", which is again a plus.

There's one thing that leaves a lot to be desired. The interpretations. Dev Patel was an excellent choice for the naive, nerdy Deon. But Jackman looked more like a Michael Dundee, with his khaki shorts, participating in an "Indiana Jones" movie. The only thing missing was a fat cigar in his mouth. Him being the developer of such a sophisticated technology, seemed utterly impossible. Sigourney Weaver also played a meaningless small role as Michelle Bradley, the hard-hitting CEO of Tetra Vaal, who I'm sure has an impeccable career path, but still sweeps aside Deon's proposal to install an update so the existing robots could grow a consciousness. As CEO, I would at least form a work-group to research that proposal. And then we have the gang of criminals. Probably I'll sound old fashioned now, but I'd never heard of the South African rap group "Die Antwoord". They are probably excellent when it's about rapping. The acting part though was something else. But despite their lack of experience and the amateurish look, they did a fine job as educators for Chappie and as low-skilled rabble that pushes the poor robot on the wrong track.

In hindsight this was an entertaining film where action and brutal violence was mixed with touching and even humorous passages. Although the latter actually is pure laughing at "Chappie". Aside from "Chappie" being composed of electronic and mechanical components, the reactions and the course of action still looks human. A pathetic robot in the hands of a few half-idiots whose own education failed. And despite the deep philosophical approach and serious themes, this film was not a boring affair full of intricate digressions. A trashy cyber spectacle with flashy action, a comfortable pace and fine SE's which make Chappie's look lifelike and after a while you actually forget you're watching at a computer animation.

More reviews here : http://bit.ly/1KIdQMT


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