“CHAPPiE” is an odd science fiction movie. This should come as no surprise since it was made by Neill Blomkamp, who gave us the equally odd sci-fi films “District 9” and “Elysium.”
The story takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the human police force has been replaced by robocops. Only these aren’t cyborgs, they’re 100 percent robot cops.
These robots — called scouts — are the invention of Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), who works for a company run by Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver). Wilson’s co-worker Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) isn’t happy with the success of the scouts because it means his project (an even larger robotic monstrosity called The Moose) has been put in mothballs.
Wilson’s latest project is artificial intelligence, but Bradley doesn’t want her totally compliant police force to develop a mind of its own so she rejects the proposal. Wilson then secretly install the A.I. into a damaged scout that had been scheduled for the scrap heap.
And here’s where things get odd. The scout is stolen by a trio of thugs — Ninja (Watkin Tudor Jones), Yolandi (Yolandi Visser) and Yankie (Jose Pablo Cantillo). Yolandi names the robot Chappie (Sharlto Copley). The childlike robot in turn refers to Ninja and Yolandi as Daddy and Mommy.
Ninja needs Chappie to help with a big heist because he owes a lot of money to a local crime boss. Chappie’s programming won’t let him do anything illegal, so Ninja and Yankie have to be creative in getting Chappie’s help. Meanwhile, the boys are busy teaching Chappie the gangsta lifestyle while Yolandi is really getting into the whole mommy role.
But when Chappie is caught on film helping rob an armored car, Bradley gives Moore the go-ahead to set loose The Moose.
“CHAPPiE” is a big step up from the disappointing “Elysium” and more in the ballpark of “District 9,” which I didn’t love as much as a lot of critics. It had its flaws, especially in the latter half, and that’s true here as well.
Still, the director’s visual style is still unique and the movie has a good helping of humor, action and drama. The story’s full of holes and your enjoyment of it will depend largely on how you feel about the characters. Weaver doesn’t get much to do and Jackman is a one-dimensional villain here but I did enjoy the interplay between Chappie and his thug family.
The ending is a bit odd — par for the course — and I have trouble believing Chappie could pull off what he did. “CHAPPiE” wasn’t anything like what i was expecting and that’s a good thing. I’m not sure it’s that good of a movie but I had fun with it.