Neil Blomkamp, the director of District 9 is back with his latest film: Chappie. The film traces the birth and life of a robot called Chappie as a a means of exploring Artificial Intelligence (AI), but frustratingly the film is caught between sheer brilliance and a painful 90’s B-movie action piece.
Set in 2016 Johannesburg where crime is out of control resulting in the South African police force entering into a contract with an arms manufacturer to deploy robots as police called scouts. This move is praised and is a huge success but the creator of these scouts has further ambitions, he seeks to create robots with consciousness, true AI.
Through various plot contrivances gangsters Ninja and Yolandi (Die Antwoord) become the guardians of an alive, thinking, feeling and hyper intelligent robot called Chappie. Chappie is ‘born’ unknowing and must learn from those around him about what it means to be ‘human’.
This central idea is highly intriguing as the film examines the influence of Chappie’s surroundings and upbringing on his given warm, fun and loving character. Sharlto Copley who performed the movement and voice of Chappie brings him to life and soon one falls for the lovable yet naive robot human.
The various scenes and set pieces which develop this idea are the sole reason for watching this film as the plot and acting (bar Dev Patel) surrounding Chappie are poor. The script is all over the place and Die Antwoord should stick to making music because acting is clearly not in their bag of tricks. At times it feels like the beautiful birth of true AI has been dropped into Schwarzenegger/Stallone action scene.
Why Hugh Jackmans’s character exists or how the world most powerful arms manufacturers security can be broken repeatedly is beyond me. This film had the potential to transcend District 9 but its inability to decide what the film is really about means it falls into the average to good category.
Overall the film is still worth a viewing for two reasons:
- The AI conversations that it brings to the surface are fascinating as a real Chappie feels like an ever increasing possibility in our lifetime.
- Who doesn’t love Sharlto Copley?
Chappie – Neil Blomkamp (Colombia Pictures, 2015)