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Film Review: ‘Chappie’

Chappie” was as lifeless and glitchy as its starring robot.

Flash back to August 2009. I sat down in my favorite theater in Colorado Springs to see a film that honestly looked a little weird and from a first-time director, Neill Blomkamp. But the critics were losing it and Peter Jackson was producing, so I had to go. Its visuals, compelling story and social satire quickly made it one of my favorite sci-fi films, ever.

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That was “District 9,” the film that put Blomkamp on the map. Flash forward four years later to “Elysium.” I was thoroughly excited. I thought, “wow, this is gonna be ‘District 9’ but with an even better cast. What could go wrong?” A lot. But I passed it off as Blomkamp’s sophomore feature slump, something many filmmakers go through.

Chappie
Image courtesy of IMDb. “Chappie” was released March 6.

Today I saw “Chappie,” and I was ready to forgive “Elysium” and get lost in this new film.

What a disappointment. Blomkamp, what are you doing?

First of all, hackers are once again portrayed incorrectly. Dev Patel plays Deon, an engineer who, like many Hollywood computer experts, has the magical ability to bend machines to his will with less than 10 keystrokes and wild flurry of fingers across the screen.

Ninja and Yo-landi Visser, of rap group Die Antwoord, play gangsters who steal Chappie and take him under their wing. They are absolutely awful. Not only are they terrible actors, but they play terrible characters. Don’t bring in music artists as actors for a reason other than cute cameos. It’s pointless and lazy. Their characters are just stupid, uninteresting and make the worst decisions possible.

And speaking of Chappie, that robot sucks. He isn’t relatable at all, doesn’t really display any emotion and his lack of facial expressions didn’t really lend anything to his humanity. He really paled in comparison to self-aware machines in other films like in “I, Robot,” “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” and “WALL-E.”

I’m a die-hard Hugh Jackman fan, and he just got served an awful character to play. His hardcore religious character, Vincent, has the strangest motivations ever, and a super-powerful “Moose” robot, which is given great anticipation but doesn’t deliver in the end.

The one aspect of “Chappie” I did like, which has been a plus of all of Blomkamp’s films, is the visual style and effects. They’re really top-notch and always make even the ugliest of locations aesthetically pleasing. And the motion capture of Sharlto Copley as Chappie is fantastic.

Blomkamp has just lost his storytelling touch. I was hoping “Elysium” was just a misstep, but if “Chappie” is what we are to expect of him, then I would say his career won’t go on much longer.

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This is especially sad because Blomkamp is already confirmed to direct an “Alien” film. Now instead of failing his own projects, he is going to ruin a franchise millions of people have come to love. I sincerely hope he doesn’t, but after “Chappie,” expectations are low.

Collegian A&E Film Beat Writer Morgan Smith can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on twitter @MDSFilms.

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