In Defence Of Chappie
Posted on March 9, 2015
Chappie director, Neill Blomkamp, has a gift for science-fiction with social-political threads. The segregation of District 9’s aliens paralleled South Africa’s apartheid while Elysium’s space station offered an analogy for asylum and immigration. Now robot Chappie brings child development into focus when he’s captured by a gang of Johannesburg criminals
Set against falling crime rates due to a new robotic police force, it’s Blomkamp’s crudest effort at social commentary with occasional, muddled blind alleys (like what’s the difference between consciousness and the soul?). Chappie is the first sentient robot and possesses a child-like mind, enabling Blomkamp to explore the impact of bullying, exposure to violence and parental manipulation on evolving morality. Will Chappie follow his ‘parents’ into a life of crime? The threads are sometimes confused but Chappie’s belief in his law-breaking guardians evokes human complexity and the difficulties faced in breaking cycles of crime.
It follows that the most dangerous aspect of artificial intelligence is human influence. It’s an interesting perspective. Moose, Blomkamp’s human operated robot – a killing machine managed remotely by a maniacal Hugh Jackman – confidently alludes to military drones, suggesting humanity is equally dangerous.
There’s a peculiar comedy value in watching a naive robot attempt cool but Chappie is filled with familiar Blomkamp misfires: a cliché, action fuelled third act that overshadows his absorbing social themes; and an array of caricature villains, this time provided by South African rappers Die Antwoord. As with Blomkamp’s Elysium, work to see through this surface clutter and Chappie is another charming and rewarding, if less cogent, social satire.
VERDICT: ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ 4/5
Running Time: 120 minutes
UK Release Date: 6 March 2015
Images: © 2015 CTMG, Inc. Courtesy of Columbia Pictures
Review first printed in Ashfield & Mansfield Chad