Sunday, 30 August 2015


Smell the Movies
Smell the TV


Country of origin:USA / Mexico
Director:Neill Blomkamp
Genre:Sci-fi action
Starring:Sharlto Copley, Sigourney Weaver, Yo-Landi Visser, Ninja, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman
IMDB link:

Tagline:Humanity's last hope isn't human.
Favourite line:"Don't laugh, I'm being cool"

Critically mauled upon first release, sometimes people are just plain wrong.

The plot:
In 2016, with crime spiralling out of control and gangs pretty much running the city, Johannesburg takes the drastic step of becoming the first city in the world to deploy a robotic police force. Able to enter areas too dangerous for mere mortals, and with the capacity to withstand volleys of bullets, soon the city is becalmed, the criminals quashed.
During the operation, one ‘robocop’, Unit 22, has the misfortune to be something of a bullet magnet and, each time he is sent on duty, seems to come back damaged. Despatched once more into the field, despite his apparent curse, this final time proves one time too many and, suffering an RPG to the chest, is seemingly irreparably damaged. Consigned to the scrap heap, and scheduled for destruction, Unit 22 has a potential saviour, the very man who created him, Deon (Dev Patel), who needs a working unit in order to test his work on truly artificial intelligence, but nasty old boss lady Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) refuses him permission to take the unit, so he steals it instead. Unfortunately, on his way back home, with the dilapidated robot set for repair in the back of his van, Deon is carjacked by a criminal gang, targeting him specifically, as only he has the know-how to execute a plan they have hatched to raise several million rand.
Now in the hands of the criminal underworld, will Chappie’s extraordinary capabilities be put to use for the purposes of good, or something altogether more nefarious?

Back in 2009, director Blomkamp took the sci-fi movie world by storm when District 9 dropped, a sharp, refreshingly edgy sci-fi satire that weaved commentary on the apartheid struggle in South Africa into a rollicking good, slime and tentacle laced actioner. Follow-up Elysium was not so well received, but still the message within the sci-fi trappings was potent – can exorbitant wealth ever be excused when the majority are suffering?
With his third full length offering, Blomkamp eschews the politicking for something altogether lighter though, if that were to be inferred as a criticism, it would be wrong to do so.
Playing the role of Unit 22, swiftly renamed Chappie by his new found criminal cohorts, is long-time Blomkamp collaborator Sharlto Copley, a man so terrifying in District 9 it is hard to believe it is the same man behind the frantic yet friendly performance portrayed here.
As ever with Blomkamp’s movies, design is king and, as with his previous efforts, the sci-fi hardware is placed in the grimy, dusty city setting with damn near seamless precision. Homage is paid, too, to the film that surely inspired this piece, Robocop, especially in the guise of The Moose, a huge, ED209 style armoured, chain-gun wielding behemoth. Even the voices of the regular Unit’s will be very familiar to anyone who has seen Paul Verhoeven’s undisputed 80’s classic.
Special mention must be made of the appearance of Die Antwoord – if you don’t know who they are, and shame on you if that is the case, click here – pretty much playing themselves, both in manner and character name, the friendly antiheroes of the piece, who take Chappie under their wing, initially to exploit him, before things get more complex. They’re surprisingly good, too.
At bang on two hours, the only real criticism is the film flags a little in the middle, once the initial set-up is done with, once you’ve become accustomed to the novelty of the Zef rappers, and before things kick in for the final act.
Oh, and, whether you like what he does or not, Blomkamp must be applauded surely for, like Shyamalan, Aronofsky, the Wachowski’s and far too few others, he is at least giving us original concepts, world-building to create a vision that is all his own, rather than serving up half-baked movies based on pre-existing IP or, shudder, sequels to previous successes.
So bravo you, Neill. Bravo, you.
A satisfying slab of urban sci-fi then that, whilst never quite reaching the heights of Blomkamp’s previous two efforts, nevertheless maintains the interest throughout.

No comments:

Post a Comment