Artificial Intelligence, consciousness, self-awareness, misfits, conscience, there is so much I could say that I have, in fact, written a lengthy book on these subjects and even that barely scratches the surface. There are millions of considerations, and millions of stories to tell, and Chappie is one of them.
In 2016, Johannesburg, South Africa employs clever, but not conscious, droids to control crime and civil unrest. A plucky nerd, Deon, creator of the programming that runs these droids, believes he can take the next step and develop a truly conscious artificial being. However, his final test is prohibited. A weapons manufacturer is not interested in a droid that can appreciate art. Using a damaged droid slated for scrap, he tries the test on his own.
Deon’s police droid system sucks up all the R and D funding at the Tetravaal corporation, leaving a co-worker who has developed an alternate, human controlled mega-droid system, high and dry, and desperate.
There is the stage: Civil unrest and massive gang activity, an aggressive high-strung adversary, and in the middle a geek of a hacker with the budding foundation for artificial intelligence. It is quite a mix.
All the actors do well. The writers and Dev Patel (Deon) did their research on what hackers are like, right down to the all night coding obsessions supported by Red Bulls. Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser are interesting characters playing themselves, at least in the use of their names. Initially they feel stilted, but that may be their accents, which most westerners are not used to. They did progress through the movie, but I do believe they have a long way to go before they can really stand against the likes of a Sigourney Weaver or Hugh Jackman. Hugh Jackman plays his role well, that of an overly driven, ex-military, systems developer. Sigourney Weaver delivers with her customary well-studied skill.
I enjoy Neil Blomkamp’s direction. Chappie has the feel of District 9, though a bit cleaner and more polished, yet it maintains that gritty, edgy quality. I am glad he has elected to avoid the now more common stutter frame, vibration camera work at moments of high action. The cinematography is well done, and Han Zimmer’s score supports every moment. Though on a personal note, I did not care for Die Antwoord’s “Enter The Ninja” used at the beginning of the closing credits. Yo-Landi Visser’s little girl, animie vocal accompaniment suggested a lack of seriousness and sincerity. I have nothing against rap, hip-hop, or rave, and nothing against animie or female vocals. I understand the tie between Chappie’s youthful inquisitiveness and learning, and the playful quality of the female vocal, along with it being a tune by two of the actors. Still, for me, I could have done without the piece altogether. However, if that is the only criticism a person can offer, then there really isn’t anything bad to say.
The film is R rated, due to language and violence, so do not take the kids. There is not a 3D version, so that saves you a buck or two.
Chappie is well worth the ticket. Nerds rule.