Neill Blomkamp is becoming one of my favorite directors.
The apparent sci-fi god of South Africa, Blomkamp came onto the scene in 2009 with the box-office hit District 9, a film that garnered him an Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay. If you’ve seen District 9, you know that Blomkamp is his own man and like no other in film right now. His camera work has a documentary taste to it, giving his shots a story-like feel. When I first watched District 9, I started it over after five minutes because I thought I had accidentally chosen the behind-the-scenes section. If you don’t know, District 9 starts with interviewing a bunch of characters.
That’s something you don’t see in movies: something that throws you for a loop straight out of the gate. I’m not saying I haven’t been blown away by some opening scenes. That happens on occasion, but to be thrown for a loop and see something you’ve never seen before? That’s a rarity.
Which is why, when I saw the phrase “the director of District 9” come across the screen for the Chappie trailer, I knew I had to see it.
And Neill Blomkamp’s record with me is solid. District 9 is one of my favorite sci-fi films and while last year’s Elysium couldn’t compare with District 9, it was a box office success. It was slow-moving but the final third, as well as the driving force duo of Matt Damon and Sharlto Copley, made this film one I need to get out, buy and relive.
What made me want to see this film so much and why Chappie ended up being such a success with me was because of the themes and ideas it conceptualizes in its story. That’s one of the things that I love about Blomkamp: his ability to weave ulterior motives into his framework.
A robot police force has reduced crime in Johannesburg, but the creator of these robots, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), believes in something more, an artificial intelligence that can replicate the human mind.
With so many dystopian films highlighting our bookshelves and theater platforms, technology is an easy target. In a world overrun by it, surely this is where our future could go wrong. It’s something many people can get behind.
Yet, it’s important to remember that there are two sides to every coin. Think of the potential that technology holds for good.
Chappie is that untapped potential unveiled and paraded for us. A police bot reprogrammed, Chappie is brought into the world like a child. Growing and learning words and behaviors at an accelerated pace, Chappie‘s two-hour run time gifts us with the whole life of a person made of metal. Frightened and unsure of his surroundings, Chappie is subjected to the beauties of life, as well as its harsh realities and must discover on his own how he feels about this world he’s come into as well as the people in it.
It’s a journey I think we all want to embark on. How do we feel about the world at the end of the day? Each night before our head hits the pillow, do we smile or do we sigh in disgust? What from our time here have we learned about the world? Are we a black sheep like Chappie, different from the rest? Are we the only one who can truly understand us? Are we black sheep?
Blomkamp presents a lot of questions, both personal and societal here. He never fails to keep me thinking.
While Chappie’s narrative has been bashed by critics, I felt the narrative worked, for if it wasn’t presented the way it was, the themes, which are and always have been Blomkamp’s bread and butter, wouldn’t have transfused as precisely as they did from maker to machine.
Are the characters rather generic? Yes but they symbolize the world around us nonetheless. Chappie and Deon are the standouts here. All the other players, including Hugh Jackman, are there to further Blomkamp’s agenda. Is that a disservice to the characters and actors/actresses? Perhaps, but it was done for the greater good and so I can’t fault Blomkamp for going about it the way he did.
Did it hamper the acting? Yeah, a little bit. Hugh Jackman doesn’t get to stretch out his jaws for this role but got me fired up all the same. If an actor can siphon my emotions despite playing an unoriginal character, then they did a good job. I hated Hugh Jackman’s character by the end.
The robot design was unique and the body movements and facial expressions added a lot to the character. The sets only furthered my intrigue.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable Guy, The Cabin in the Woods, Tears of the Sun, Edge of Tomorrow, The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
50-59 This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Rage, Zoolander, The Expendables 3, Homefront, G.I. Joe: Retaliation)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Erased, I, Frankenstein, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Billy Madison)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Centurion, Planet of the Apes, Stonados, Redemption, Pride and Prejudice)
20-29 What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The Colony, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, The Grey, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Thor: The Dark World)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (Sabotage, Gallowwalkers, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Safe, Watchmen)
My score for Chappie: 92.
Blomkamp delivers yet another sci-fi hit and Sharlto Copley finally gets back on track with his acting career after last year’s cell-destroying performances from Open Grave and Maleficent. Already looking to be one of my favorite films of the year. It’ll be hard to beat.