Neil Blomkamp loves robots and aliens more than human beings and maybe that's why all his stories so far have had something to do with the man versus machine concept.
After making his smashing debut in 2009 blockbuster "District
9", Neil became a much sought after filmmaker. But the overnight
success didn't last long as his big budget sci-fi drama "Elysium",
his second film turned out to be a disaster. And his latest outing
like it's been made from nuts and bolts of his earlier films and
the pieces don't fit the way they should.
In "Chappie", he envisions a world where robots aid police force
in bringing down the crime rate. They don't just aid, but even risk
their lives to save their human counterparts. In one such
operation, a droid gets severely broken beyond repair.
Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) is the chief designer of the
robots that have been successfully assisting the Johannesburg
police department in fighting crime and his organization is proud
of his work. But Deon has been secretly working on a programme that
will allow robots to have a mind of their own, behave and feel like
humans with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). When he
pitches the idea, his boss doesn't approve, forcing him to
illegally test it on the broken droid.
Deon's ambitious plan goes for a toss when he is kidnapped by a
group of gangsters, who plan to use him to programme a robot to
help them pull off a big heist. Deon reprogrammes the broken droid
with AI, and Chappie is born.
"Chappie" has very little story and whatever it has doesn't
quite engage us. But what's charming about the film is Neil's idea
to treat humans and robots equally. When a robot can behave like us
and has feelings of its own, thanks to AI, why should it still do
whatever it's instructed to do. With a mind of its own, a robot can
differentiate between right and wrong but it needs to be shown how
and that's where human intervention is needed.
When Chappie is first brought back to life, it reacts to its
surroundings with fear. Deon calls it a child and says it needs to
be oriented. When you forget Chappie is a robot and treat it like a
child, you'll appreciate what Blomkamp tries to address
While the gangsters want Chappie to help them pull off a heist,
Deon wants it to learn a la humans. In a touching scene, Deon
encourages Chappie to paint and read a book about a black sheep.
Typically, a black sheep is a disreputable member of a family or
group, but here it stands for someone unique and different. Chappie
is the black sheep, and its uniqueness is symbolically highlighted
by the orange coloured ear, which is quite evident even in the
But these wonderful moments don't make up for the lack of story.
And there's plenty of awe-inspiring action in this insipid tale
which like Neil's earlier films is set in his birthplace
Johannesburg in South Africa. For reasons nobody would understand,
the director had cast two members of the rave-rap group Die
Antwoord in the lead roles, while Dev Patel tries his best to do
justice as a nerd. Jackman was merely cast for the purpose to
fill in the shoes of a bad man in such stories.
"Chappie" has lots of issues but it definitely isn't a bad film.
Agreed the concept is archaic, but there's something oddly charming