By: Grant Vance ~Staff Writer~
The landscape of science fiction in cinema has found itself in a contemporary renaissance, offering a multitude of new, provocative science fiction films each year.
Of the many filmmakers contributing their work to the enrichmente of the genre, writer/director Niell Blomkamp (“District 9,” “Elysium”), among others, has proven himself as one of the most dynamic, sociallyrelevant minds in the industry. With his new film, “Chappie,” Blomkamp has proven that he still has what it takes to make great science fiction, though he has yet to perfect the art.
“Chappie” is the story of a distant future where the city of Johannesburg is patrolled by a mechanical police force produced by the weapons manufacturing company, Tetravaal.
When Tetravaal employee Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) creates a program capable of giving one of these robots sentience, the feeling robot, Chappie, inadvertently falls into the wrong hands — those of gangsters Yolandi and Ninja (played by South African rap group Die Antwoord), raising the questions of nature versus nurture and the ethics of robotic consciousness that carry this coming- of-age epic of the innocent, lovable Chappie.
“Chappie” is a messy film but it has enough heart, entertainment and eccentricities to make it worth the experience. Blomkamp’s satirically poignant fingerprints layer the film, echoing several themes from his previous two films.
Though many of the critiques of “Chappie” focus on these similarities, fans of “District 9” and “Elysium” should find the similarities warm and encouraging, as Blomkamp continues to explore social issues in an innovative and visually evocative way. Thematically the film is enjoyable and thought-provoking, though the execution is not always on par with the concept.
“Chappie” falls short with its large amount of plot holes, ranging from the small scale scope of the concept of a robotic police force to an unpleasant amount of character inconsistencies that distract from the central story. Blomkamp has a clear, respectable vision, but he has proven once again that he is a much stronger director than he is a writer.
The performances in the film are consistently strong, from Hugh Jackman’s mullet- sporting, khaki shortswearing antagonist, to Sigourney Weaver’s stern, militaristic Tetravaal CEO.
Though they prove their chops to an extent, the casting of Die Antwoord as gangsters is interesting and varies in quality. “Chappie” is a fun, heartfelt film that is worth the ride. For more Neill Blomkamp, be on the lookout for developments in the next film in the “Alien” franchise, which he is set to direct.