FTF Boo Rating
1 is good, 5 is bad.
If Neill Blomkamp didn’t have a threesome with South African Zef Rap duo Die Antwoord after making CHAPPiE then I will literally suck my own dick. I know I bandy around statements like that quite a lot but this time I’m deadly serious. I want someone to conclusively prove to me that they didn’t all get naked and put things in each other once production was complete. If someone does this then I promise to forcibly penetrate my own mouth. I’d have to do a few weeks of fairly intensive bikram yoga in order to contort myself into a position where I could fellate myself, but I’m so confident in my original statement that I’m not even worried about having to do that. I say this because CHAPPiE wasn’t a film; it was a two hour long orgiastic salute to how much Neill Blomkamp loves Die Antwoord. This was a promotional video masquerading as a movie and it was made so that Die Antwoord would agree to make whoopee with Neill Blomkamp
The amount of screen time and artistic control Die Antwoord had in this film was excessive – they designed a few of the sets, their music played in all their scenes and they even wore t shirts with their own faces on. I’ve heard of product placement but this was bordering on obscene. Then to top it all off their acting was abysmal even though they played themselves. Now, when I say “they played themselves”, I don’t want you to misunderstand me. I don’t mean like when Eminem played a character similar to himself in 8 Mile. I mean that Ninja and Yolandi from Die Antwoord actually played themselves, names and everything. When an actor in a multi-million dollar picture can’t even convincingly pretend to be themselves you know you’re in trouble. In a film this big, you’d hope that someone would pipe up and say “Hey, I’ve got a novel idea – I don’t know why we didn’t think of this before. How about we get people in who can actually fucking act. You know, so that this film isn’t shit and stuff.” Although now that I think about it, they could be utter twats in real life too so maybe they’re better at being themselves than I’m giving them credit for.
The film is based on this super clever dude called Deon who singlehandedly creates the software for a bunch of robot police in Johannesburg. The crime rate drops dramatically and everyone’s happy except for Wolverine who is super pissed off because he created the ED-209 from Robocop at the same time and no one seems to care. From here on in, Wolverine’s robot will be called SKDB, which is short for Super Killing Death Bot
In an inspiring computer coding montage, Deon writes a new piece of software which is the world’s first technological singularity – actual, factual artificial intelligence. Anyone that knows even a little bit about computers would understand that this is a massive goddamn deal, world changing big. This piece of software could drastically alter the course of humanity, it’s that important. So Deon goes to his boss and they have this conversation
“Boss! Boss! I’ve created the first true Artificial Intelligence. It’s going to be world changing – this is a computer that can think for itself! This new intelligence will be able to tell us whether they like a piece of art, it could write poems!”
“Uhhh…..I’m the CEO of a national defence corporation, why would I want poems? Get out”
So not only is this CEO so insufferably stupid that she doesn’t realise the implications of what Deon has just done. She’s also dismissed the most important person in her company like he was a janitor. Stupid, rude and stupid again. This is Blomkamp’s nod to idiotic corporate women and why he thinks women shouldn’t be in a position of power. Much like Jodie Foster’s character in Elysium.
Immediately after their conversation Deon has a hissy fit and steals a broken robot. Then he steals the most important chip in the whole company. No one in the company notices, no alarms go off, no security guards check his bag- nothing. Then he drives off with these things and is immediately kidnapped. He’s one of the most important people in the entire city, holding a couple of the most important things in the entire city and he’s kidnapped. By idiots. Right outside the company headquarters. In order not to get thoroughly pissed off with this film you just need to understand one simple concept. IF YOU’RE NOT A MAIN CHARACTER THEN YOU DON’T EXIST. All the characters in this film can steal/shoot/do whatever they want, whenever they want without getting in trouble from anyone except other main characters.
Our titular protagonist arrives when Die Antwoord hold a gun to Deon’s head and force him to inject the AI brain into the broken robot. Thus Chappie is born. Chappie immediately has full control of his robot body and is saying words in the space of a few minutes as well as comprehending the notion of self and others. So in ten minutes, Chappie has the developmental age of a toddler, which is pretty exciting stuff – where’s he going to go from here? The next day he becomes a grumpy adolescent and that’s pretty much where he stays for the rest of the movie. So, despite having a vastly superior intellect, constant access to the internet which contains the sum total of human knowledge, Chappie is somehow unable to transcend to a higher plane than that of a petulant teenager with serious daddy issues.
Next we are subjected to scene after scene of violent robot racism and it’s all very sad and we start to feel a certain affinity to this humanoid robot, Chappie. This connection is helped no end by Chappie’s eyebrows, mouth and pointy ears which give us emotive clues as to how he’s feeling. What’s weird is that Chappie’s body is that of a decommissioned police robot and why the police robots automatons would have emotional indicators when they’re programmed not to feel emotion is a mystery. But it sure does help the audience to feel the way the director wants us to.
Lots and lots of stupid stuff happens and all of the characters act in utterly nonsensical ways. It feels as though the writers had thought of a few great but totally unrelated plot lines and then tried to cobble a cohesive story around them. For example, most stories go from A to Z via the other letters in the alphabet; Chappie goes from L to 9 via %, () and cat. Is this film about dystopian police states, Zef rap, Blomkamp hating his father or the inherent dangers of Artificial Intelligence? The answer is probably all of them but this means that there isn’t enough time to fully explore any of them.
Wolverine’s character is by far the stupidest in the entire movie. He spends the whole time angling to get the green light on his programme without ever understanding what he’s created. Johannesburg already has a sufficient police force with the humanoid robots Deon created but Wolverine keeps pitching to the police force anyway. SKDB has surface to air missiles, a couple of mini guns, the power of flight and would probably just about fit on a two lane highway. Not really the best policeman by anyone’s standards. But do you know who might be interested in a big robot designed to indiscriminately kill lots of people? The US military. How did Wolverine not think of it himself? Just one glimpse of it practically screams “civilian casualties”.
At the end of the film, in a last ditch effort to show how valuable he is, Wolverine hatches a diabolical scheme where he shuts down all of Deon’s policebots and then swoops in to save the day by activating SKDB. So fragile is the police state ruled by fear that the entire city is rioting within seconds of the robots deactivating. With the city in chaos, useless corporate woman lets Wolverine fly out to bring back order. It’s probably best not to ask where the CEO of a private company got the power to authorise such drastic measures against a rioting populace. But if you were to ask then I imagine that the answer would probably be the sound of Blomkamp’s moist balls slapping against Ninja’s chin. So it’s finally Wolverine’s time to shine, his time to prove to everyone that his robot should be the one patrolling the dirty streets of Jo’burg. And how does he go about doing that? Well first he snips a guy in half with his robot claws, then he throws another guy against a wall hard enough to pop him like a balloon. He follows this up by demolishing an innocent building with rockets, shooting an unarmed woman in the chest with a mini gun and then getting his shit all exploded to hell. Way to go, buddy – you sure showed those guys in corporate.
I’d like to conclude this review with something that annoyed me more than it should. In Die Antwoord’s crew there was a gangster called Amerika, because he was from America –pretty simple stuff. What annoyed me was what was he doing in South Africa in the first place? I would be extremely interested to get the statistic for how many low level American gang bangers decide to emigrate from Los Angeles to go and live in an abandoned car park in South Africa. How do they go about getting a visa or even the funds for the flight in the first place? I know it shouldn’t annoy me but it just seemed like one more thing the makers threw in because it sounded cool rather than thinking of the how’s, whys and wherefores that got it there in the first place.