Chappie – movie review

Chappie is a movie about a robot that becomes self-aware and therefore “alive”. This is a common theme in science fiction (just think of Skynet in Terminator). In fact, the literary  theme of an inanimate object  becoming alive has excited even before the genre of science fiction. After all, Pinocchio was one such object.

Despite the fact that the basic concept has been used many times, Chappie is a movie worth seeing since it is so excellently done. Every member of the cast performs wonderfully, and the action sequences are exciting.

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However, the reason we liked this film so much was not for the action, but for the character development.  It takes place in South Africa, where the police force is using robot police officers to patrol the dangerous neighborhoods. The engineer who created these robots (played by Devon Patel) believes they are capable of much more.

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Devon takes a discarded robot and installs  it with  true artificial intelligence. However, his plans go awry when he is kidnapped by a group of criminals who want to use the robot to help them commit crimes.

The most interesting characters in the film are the members of the criminal gang, who are all played by South African actors unfamiliar to most American Audiences.  We were particularly impressed with Yolandi Visser, who the robot thinks is its “mommie”. Since the robot’s mind is brand new, it has the characteristics of a child, despite its great strength and intelligence.  Although she has a tough exterior, Yolandi cannot help but return Chappie’s love. In fact, she is the one who give the robot its name.

What makes her performance even more impressive  is the fact that she is not actually an actor. Yolandi Visser is the lead vocalist for a South African rap group called Die Antwoed.

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Chappie also picks a “daddy”, from the gang, who is played by Watkin Tudor Jones. He wants to teach Chappie about fighting. He wants to turn Chappie into a real gangster to help the gang. At the same time,  “daddy” is more complex than he originally appears.  He wants Chappie to understand why it is necessary to know how to fight. He shows Chappie the brutal realities of the word and what happens to creatures that don’t know how to protect themselves.

The movie also has Sigorney Weaver as the head of the company that makes the police robots, and Hugh Jackman as a somewhat crazy engineer, who is willing to sabotage the company to get his own project funded. As always, these two veteran actors put in stellar performances.

The trailer for this movie does not really get across how good a film it is. We definitely recommend Chappie.

We give this film Four Stars ****

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