“You’ve taught us so much more than I can ever have imagined.”
Here’s what I wrote about this one in my theatrical review:
“It is 2016, and in the South African city of Johannesburg crime is out of control. But thanks to genius Tetravaal Corp robotics engineer Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) things are about to change. He’s personally spearheaded the design and creation of a robot police force that will revolutionize law enforcement, pleasing CEO Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) while also sending the stock price of his company through the proverbial roof.
Yet Deon isn’t content. He wants to take things to the next level and transform robotic consciousness and human understanding of artificial intelligence forever, and as such he’s written a new program he thinks will do just that. But before he can upload his ideas into a battered police unit destined for demolition the scientist is kidnapped by a small group of criminals led by the cartoonish Ninja and his daffy blonde girlfriend Yolandi (real life South African rap stars NINJA and ¥O-LANDI VI$$ER). They force him to use his skills immediately, no time to test, no opportunity to plan, in hopes Deon can create a robot that will help them accomplish the biggest payroll heist Johannesburg has ever seen.
Thus is born Chappie, portrayed and voiced by actor Sharlto Copley with a team of visual effects and motion capture wizards responsible for his photorealistic final look. As a character, he’s incredible, director and co-writer Neill Blomkamp and fellow screenwriter Terri Tatchell – reteaming for the first time since District 9 – making him an enigmatic and deeply fascinating newborn evolving with convincing complexity. Something of a combination of Johnny 5, HAL 900 and Robocop, Chappie lives in ways that are astounding, making him one of the more fascinating characters likely to hit theatre screens in all of 2015.
But as a movie, as a finished motion picture, Chappie itself is a wildly anachronistic muddled mess. It’s unfocused and undisciplined. More than that, it treats its main characters with bizarre, close to callous cruelty, painting its most intelligent inhabitants as if their only goal in life was to be the biggest idiot in all of South Africa. People do things for reasons that confound and irritate, Deon especially, so developing a human connection to almost anything taking place becomes a virtual impossibility.
The biggest and most egregious offender is fellow Tetravaal engineer Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman). A former military man, he is disgusted by the very concept of artificial intelligence, which in and of itself would be okay, but neither Blomkamp nor Tatchell seem to know what to make of him. More than that, they’re so obsessed with cementing him as the dastardly sociopathic villain; they do a poor job of making his plan make a lick of sense. He’s an egotistical monster right from the start, and it’s only thanks to Jackman’s inherent star power and charisma that any sense of multidimensionality is attained, Vincent nothing more than a rote, incredibly forgettable thug who seems to take great joy in gunning down those he sees as criminals more than he does anything else.
Yet it doesn’t stop there. The idea is simple enough, the filmmakers setting up a scenario where the newly sentient life form is forced to decide between his maker, Deon, Yolandi (whom he decides to call ‘Mommy’) or Ninja, all of them setting themselves up as teachers and erstwhile parents vying to set the robot on his evolutionary path. But this discussion never takes shape, everything so mishandled it doesn’t matter near as much as it should if Chappie comes to understand what is right or what is wrong, while attempting to navigate the grey areas lying in-between. This moral quagmire is frustrating in its disheveled malevolence, the ideas being explored so fractured and incomplete they’re almost indecipherable.
On a technical front, however, Chappie is remarkable. This isn’t a Short Circuit meets Robocop meets District 9 clone; and while thematically similarities are readily apparent, from a visual and production standpoint Blomkamp has managed to create a world unique in and of itself. As already stated, the central character himself is astonishing – moving, evolving and reacting in ways that astound. More, there is a refreshing, almost sensual allure to Trent Opaloch’s (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) cinematography I was drawn to, while Jules Cook’s suitably dingy, impeccably lived-in production design captures the spirit of what the director is aiming for to perfection.
I appreciate Blomkamp’s ambition. Between this, District 9 and Elysium he’s certainly interested in being a sci-fi filmmaker who wants to be known for tackling big ideas and complex themes. Problem is, while his first film got most of what he wanted to right, his two follow-ups have been far less successful, each film not knowing what to do with itself once they’ve presented their initial world-in-dystopian-crisis scenarios. Chappie shows great promise, it just maddeningly refuses to live up to it, its final moments as robotic and as poorly engineered as a malfunctioning Furby ready for the scrapheap.”
I wanted to give Chappie a second chance, if only to see if there were things lurking inside of it that I might have missed the first time around that would allow me to see the film is an entirely different light. No such luck. If anything, I liked Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi effort even less, the stupidity of the plot driving me right around the bend in more ways than one. I also really, really didn’t like spending more time with NINJA and ¥O-LANDI VI$$ER, the pair of them about as disagreeable a duo of potential stars I’ve had the displeasure to be introduced to in quite some time. The movie just doesn’t work, not at all, and I’m not sure there’s anything more I can add.
Chappie is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray with a MPEG-4 AVC encode and a 2.40:1 1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack along with a French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Spanish and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and comes with a ton of optional English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Cantonese, Indonesian, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional) and Thai subtitles.
Extras here include:
Alternate Ending (5:15) – The reason most will grab this Blu-ray for a look will be to see if the alternate ending changes things in any sort of discernible way that would have made one’s negative opinion of the film suddenly moot. This is not the case.
From Tetra Vaal to Chappie (7:30)
Jozi: Real City and a Sci-Fi Setting (15:03)
Chappie: The Streetwise Professor (9:31)
We Are Tetravaal (5:53)
Keep it Gangster (7:07)
Rogue Robot: Deconstructing the Stunts and Special Effects (14:21)
Arms Race: The Weapons and Robots (6:25)
Bringing Chappie to Life: The Visual Effects (8:01)
The Reality of Robotics (5:34)
The Art of Chappie Gallery
Extended Scene: “Very Bad Men” (1:30)
I’ll give this Chappie Blu-ray this much, it comes loaded with fairly awesome extras. Seriously, all of these featurettes, even the ones that don’t sound initially sound interesting, are kind of fantastic, diving into all facets of the film and its creation fans and non-fans alike will find something of substance in. Terrific stuff.
This release comes with an access code to download a Digital HD copy of the film.
I am not a Chappie defender. I did not like it. Heck, I maybe even like it less after watching the film for a second time at home. That said, Sony’s Blu-ray presentation is magnificent, and for those who are fans of the motion picture it’s pretty much a no-brainer that you should be adding this disc to your library as soon as you possibly can.