Thursday, March 19, 2015


Image result for Chappie film stills

    "CHAPPiE" is a picture that suffers mightily from a fear of making decisions or if you prefer the correct medical term, Decidophobia. Here is a story that has the potential to command a great sense of emotional depth from its characters, yet the hesitancy to capitalize on such notions places it in a constraint that it, unfortunately, can never quite escape.

    There was a point in the film where I thought CHAPPiE could possibly symbolize the youth of America, and the surrounding instruction of violence and degradation would have served as an accurate contemporary view of society's undoing; consequently, crafting a theme of social commentary, and if there was room for ingenuity, maybe a focus of moral implication. Another direction could have relied on CHAPPiE's innocence and the inevitable eradication of such sentiments. However, these aims never come to fruition, and ultimately become superseded by mindless action and subplots that would inspire moments of utter bewilderment.

    In a realm similar to that of "Robocop," we are introduced to a world filled with brutality, barbarism, and destruction, only to find out that it is in actuality the city of Johannesburg, South Africa, in the year of 2016. We learn that the local police force have been replaced by a mechanized artificial intelligence (by way of a choppy documentary style exposition) and that our main protagonist, and designer of the above-mentioned workforce, Deon Wilson, has an intention of bestowing one of the models with a human conscious. Unlike "Robocop," however, where the motive involved instilling cold blooded objectivity into an officer of the law, the film attempts to provide sensitivity to a universally recognized body of bolts.

Image result for Chappie film stills

    Enter unwarranted storyline number one: Somewhere in the outlying provinces, among the threshold of poverty and in a place eerily comparable to the apocalyptic environment of "Mad Max," resides a group of outlaws who apparently have a large debt to a leader of another gang. This impels the three individuals into a scheme of kidnapping, where they stalk Wilson, force him to create CHAPPiE, only to threaten him with death afterward. The head thug, Ninja, begins to toughen up the demeanor of the adolescent robot (it becomes known that CHAPPiE's conscious will begin as a child, much like our own) by coaxing him into committing crimes of grand theft auto and by enshrouding him in a lifestyle filled with gold chains and bullet rounds. The objective? CHAPPiE will be utilized to achieve the most strategic of heists: robbing an armored van.

    Enter unwarranted storyline number two: In the midst of CHAPPiE's indulgence in this rather unsophisticated way of living, he becomes enamored with the presence of the resident female of the pack, named Yolandi, and after some time, he becomes a victim of Stockholm syndrome. This paves the way for several scenes to be infused with tenderness, and although they are touching at times, they are eventually drowned out by the existence of the first subplot and substandard acting.

    Enter unwarranted storyline number three: Vincent Moore, a fellow engineer to Wilson at the lovely corporation of TetraVaal, (the organization that produces these robot crime fighters) is a man consumed by jealousy, as his latest invention, the MOOSE, (a larger, more intimidating mechanical creation) has been passed over for production in favor of the Scout model. (CHAPPiE's make) This leads to the foreseeable acts of sabotage and revenge, as Moore is intent on ruining Wilson's success and regaining popularity among his co-workers.

    Dev Patel, a young actor who got his break in the 2008 film entitled "Slumdog Millionaire," is somewhat out of his element in this role, much like his co-star in Hugh Jackman, who has not looked more confused in a performance since "Movie 43," a part in which male testicles were attached to his persona's chin. Jackman is evidently the foil to Patel, although the lack of depth in the characterization of Wilson completely thwarts these efforts. (How can one emphasis, through contrast, the qualities of a character when they simply are not present?)

    The issue with "CHAPPiE" is its inability to dream; this was a perfect opportunity to divulge into a wonderful character study, however, we are left with nothing but a plot driven ambition that thrives in its contrived circumstances and less than innovative approach to filmmaking. There are two scenes, in particular, that serve as proof of this missed possibility.

    Firstly, there is a moment in which Wilson and Yolandi teach CHAPPiE how to paint that recalls the classic television program entitled "The Joy of Painting," starring one of my favorite human beings in Bob Ross. Wilson even paraphrases one of Ross' most famous lines, in which we are told that the canvas is our world and that it can be anything that we want it to be. Yet, this sentimentality is never utilized to its maximum potential and ultimately becomes lost under the plethora of gratuitous plotlines that hamper the picture's success.

    Secondly, there is an uplifting scene in which CHAPPiE partakes in a viewing of a "He-Man" animated program; subsequently, mimicking the main character's well-known catchphrase and movements. This brings to mind a similar instance in "The Iron Giant," where the central figure adopts the personality of Superman, in a venture to become his cherished idol. Although this idea has been used before, the teasing of such moments that are never delivered seems downright imprudent.

    Beyond these miscalculations, however, is a scene that accurately summarizes the complication at hand. After our main protagonist initially proposes his concept for a consciously aware robot, the TetraVaal CEO (played by Sigourney Weaver, who is also set to work with Blomkamp in the future "Aliens" production.) reiterates the undesired need for a machine that can write poetry, among other things. The fear to impart imagination, and even a hint of ambiguity, onto an audience, is an apprehension that must be forgotten in order to truly create a work of art. As far as heartwarming robot stories are concerned, "WALL-E" is still head of its class.

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