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Director Neil Blomkamp was met with an unexpected bombardment of negativity after his last film, Elysium, failed to meet the expectations of certain sci-fi nerdspectations. Nevertheless, the District 9 director surely was aware of the negative-laced anticipation for a risky film project. Movies about sentient robots that become aware and develop a soul have been seemingly a dime a dozen for decades yet the trailers and promotions revealed interesting aesthetics and genuine heart to a project that was still questionable.
Critics have an inherent desire to be negative towards the hard work and vision of artists so it was no surprise that the initial wave of reviews for the film about a lovable robot created with a revolutionary artificial intelligence. However, Chappie met marks and made strides that proved to be more effective than other efforts that attempt to accomplish the same goals.
Once again set in South Africa, a near future government program has deployed robotically programmed mobile drone units to police the still dysfunctional Johannesburg. An inactive, dismantled police drone is brought to life with the development of a cutting edge artificial intelligence & Chappie's creator: both in name and duty, Deon (Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame). Chappie's accelerated learning process excels him through the typical human development process despite being initiated in an infant stage. Particularly interesting are scenes in which the black market crew that kidnaps Deon are corrupting an innocent-minded (yes, it is a mind of sorts) with lessons in debauchery: wielding and shooting firearms, an involvement with African hip-hop and the armed robbery of government insured armored trucks. One thing that seemed rather unclear was how Chappie was capable of writing poetry so early in his life span without many accrued experiences and emotions? Perhaps it ends up just being shitty work but poetry nonetheless.
During my screening of Chappie, a friend leaned over and whispers, "Hugh Jackman is good at playing a douchebag." How right he was. Jackman was able to retain remnants of his Australian accent playing an intense, machismo rules-bending bounty hunter, with a neo-mullet and all. His ulterior motives stem from a unit of police drones he himself has developed. This plot line could have very easily been a microwaved bore as it is awfully similar to the police drones in Robocop but Vincent Moore's (Jackman) Moose drones proved to be far more badass and functional than those in Verhoeven's satirical sci-fi classic.
Blomkomp's latest is intelligent and made with compassion and care the same way that this movie's plot unfolds. Supporting characters provide specific roles and functions in the commentary made on humanity. The memorable 'mother' and 'father' Chappie develops around, Ninja and Yo-Landi provide a contrast of loving guidance and manipulative exploitation. These two foreign hip hop artists also had their music included in the soundtrack, making for unique artistic tone in all creative facets.