Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Chappie (15)

Is it me, or is the summer looking like there's some right crap heading our way?

Settling down to spend some time with Chappie this evening, I was introduced to future offerings of Run All Night (Liam Neeson has to run around and shoot people) Fast & Furious Seven (Vin and The Rock drive around and shoot stuff) and Home (attempting to be at least seven other family animated wet farts).

Not an original idea amongst them.

Then came Chappie.

Now, granted, you can pick the influences and references off as you go - but wearing your inspiration on your sleeve is a long way from just continuously re-hashing the same format.

Especially when the result is as emotional and heartwarming as Chappie.

Brought to us by the wonderful Neill 'District 9' Blomkamp, Chappie tells the tale of a robot made sentient. AI meets Robocop via Doomsday/Mad Max if you will. With a bit of Avatar and Transcendence thrown in.

And, almost certainly unintentionally, a smidge of Baymax.

The result of this melting pot of themes and ideas is a powerful, emotive look at how your environment can shape you, how good people can do bad things, how using private companies to police a city is flawed...

There's a lot going on.

It's also been billed in some places as a sci-fi comedy, which is not totally true as - while there are smirks and giggles and a lot of smiles to be had - out and out laughs are few and far between.

I don't say that as a bad thing, it's just not that film. In fact, there are more laughs in District 9.

It's the story that carries Chappie through - that and Chappie himself.

Yes it's a bit over-baked at times, and there's more going on than is absolutely necessary, at the core you have Chappie learning to 'be'. And that's really what this film is about.

Brought into being by his Maker (Dev Patel), Chappie is initially just an experiment that worked.

But then he grows. And you grow to love him.

He's led astray by Ninja (played by, erm, Ninja) and Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo), he's loved and nurtured by Yolandi (played by Yo-Landi no less), he's attacked by Hugh Jackman's Vincent - and through it all he grows, matures and develops.

Basically, in the space of two hours (well, 90 minutes from invention) Chappie grows up. And these provide some of the best moments in the film.

Imagine a robot teenager learning to walk like a gangster, covered in bling, while also painting and playing with dolls and you get a hint of what's happening.


Chappie'll have you grinning all the way home.

But that's not to say this film perfect.

While well filmed and well paced, there are some odd editing issues and the soundtrack is less than subtle at times.

Then there's the small matter of one character getting subtitled.

He's talking English. OK, with a strong South African accent, but it's no stronger than anyone else's in this film yet - and I'm guessing there's an American influence here - someone somewhere decided his voice needed words adding on the screen.

If I was being kind, I'd suggest it was a satire on American TV programming (Next Top Model has a habit of doing this), but it's not that kind of film.

It feels more like a bit of dumbing down. And it detracts from a lot of great fight scenes.

There's also a lot of Sony products on display but as it's their film I guess that's allowed. (Mind you, I'm pretty sure a PS4 can't do what Chappie makes it do).

But such niggles fail to detract from the heart and soul of this movie.

It's a credit to the writers (Blomkamp an Terri Tatchell) and Blomkamp's direction that from the outset you connect with the non-human character and root for him all the way through.

It hurts to see him get hurt, you want to stop him getting led astray, you laugh at his child-like look at the world. You have to remind yourself he's a robot.

After Oscar season there's always a lull in the film calendar, but with Chappie it feels like the year is finally up and running.

With so many sequels and unoriginal ideas heading our way, Chappie stands out from the crowd.

It's a film made with passion, heart and soul, a film that makes you care what happens. And, at the end of the day, it's a shedload of fun.

Which is more than that Neeson crap looks.