Starring: Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Hugh Jackman, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Sigourney Weaver
Directed By: Neill Blomkamp
That was disappointing. I had Chappie in my Top 25 most anticipated films of 2015, and the one thing I learned from all this is that whoever cut the trailer for Chappie is a better director/editor than the people who actually made Chappie. The movie is not an action packed sci-fi romp, it’s more of a thought provoking work about the implications of military AI in our future. More importantly, it’s a film about how Hugh Jackman needs better movie offers outside of the X-Men franchise, and how Dev Patel needs to calm the fuck down.
I don’t want this to become a review on Dev Patel, but honestly, unless you’re casting a movie about Christmas morning, or the resurrection of Jesus, or some other film where you need a young Indian man to be extremely excited and full of energy the entire time, please don’t cast Dev Patel anymore. He was the worst thing about the Marigold Hotel sequel, and he is the worst thing about Chappie. He’s just so damned hyper and childlike that it’s hard to believe he’s some great mastermind that invented these robots in the first place. And I can’t take him seriously when he tries to be serious… or hold a gun… or be in an action sequence. He’s like a small Yorkie puppy. He’s actually more of a child than Chappie.
And Hugh Jackman… I get why you wanted to do this film, but you really don’t get to do much here. The role isn’t very stretchy, and you have less screentime than some dude whose actual IMDB name is Ninja. Ultra-realism.
As far as the film goes, I thought it looked great. It moves slow and fails to get interesting until the question is posed “what is consciousness?” That’s a game changing question that sets the second act in motion. As a separately graded film, Chappie Part 2 would get an A- (points deduced for including Dev Patel), and it tries to save the first act, which is somewhere around a D+/C-. It’s not the worst thing, but the first half of my film had me checking the time every few minutes just waiting for it to crawl forward. We get that Chappie is a baby when he starts, but there’s nothing fun in watching a ragtag group of bad parents try and get Chappie to pronounce words for ten minutes, and then argue over whether or not he’s an artist or a machine. Chappie has to get to the “fully realized” component much faster, because that’s when we get actually attached to him, and when Chappie can actually advance the plot.
But, in the meantime, settle for Chappie the very uneven film that gets dramatically better somewhere slightly past the halfway point. I’m worried that Neill Blomkamp doesn’t actually know how District 9 was such an awesome movie, and he keeps trying to recreate a formula that he doesn’t have the recipe to. Elysium was no District 9, and Chappie is more problematic than Elysium. Yes, the ending of Chappie is better than all of Elysium, but it takes so long to get there that it really doesn’t matter. This is one of those few movies where if you showed up late, it might actually be a good thing.
FINAL GRADE: B-