Quick Oscars Review: Surprised by the screenplay winners and should’ve stuck to my guns with my animation picks! Neil Patrick Harris was entertaining and “Birdman” winning felt like the Academy kissing its own butt. Disappointed “Boyhood” only managed one win but happy “The Grand Budapest Hotel” managed to come away with production/design awards.
This is my first true movie review for the website. I thought long and hard about how I would rate movies and I feel as though 1-10/5 Stars/0-100 is OK but I like the system I came up with:
See It First Day;
See It First Week;
See It In Theaters;
Wait For Redbox/NetFlix/OnDemand;
Wait For Cable/TV;
If you use this review as a guide hopefully it’ll give you a good idea of whether you should see it and when. Also I’m not seeing these movies for free so you’ll know if I feel I got my money’s worth or not.
I’ll also let you know in advance if I’m a fanboy (fancat?) of a particular director/writer/actor/actress so you can know in advance how a feel about a person and I’ll do the same for director/write/actor/actress I dislike.
Let’s get to the reviewing! Chappie
Director: Neil Blomkamp
Writers: Neil Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver
Fancat of: Neil Blomkamp
Premise: A creator of a robot police force (referred to as Scouts) develops an artificial intelligence and installs it in a one of the Scouts but things go wrong when a gang of criminals kidnap him and steal the robot.
Rating: See It First Week
*SOME SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED IN THIS REVIEW – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED*
As noted above I’ve become a fan of Neil Blomkamp movies (District 9, Elysium) and this is a full film realization of one of the shorts he did, titled “Tetra Vaal” (the same name as the weapons company that manufactures the Scouts). I loved “District 9” and “Elysium”. He is a director that has created his own universe and plays around in it as he sees fit. I also like the fact he will cast unknowns in key roles, and the look and feel of his films. I’m excited to see what he does with the “Aliens” franchise. With my fancat-ness fawning of him over, on to the film.
The film opens with newscasts reporting about crime overrunning Johannesburg, South Africa and how the Scouts developed by Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) for weapons manufacturer Tetra Vaal run by Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) has turned the tide in the police’s favour. Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) is the jealous co-worker of Wilson, who developed his own line of bigger and bulkier robot police, but they are deemed useless by the Johannesburg police.
Wilson attempts to convince Bradley to let him install a program he has created to allow the robots to feel and think on their own. Despite being shot down he steals a Scout (eventually given the name Chappie and played via motion capture by Sharlto Copley) that was marked for termination and plans to install his A.I. program in it. On his way home Wilson gets kidnapped by a gang of criminals (Ninja, Yo-Lyndi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo) looking to get him to show them how to shut off the robots so they can pull off a heist to pay off a kingpin whom they owe $20 million. Wilson informs them there is no way to shut them off so they take the Scout/Chappie and intend to use him to help with the heist.
Wilson and Ninja clash as they have different ideas as to what their intentions are for Chappie and Yo-Landi plays the caring mother role. Moore is eager to get his creation, called MOOSE, off the ground and sabotages all the Scouts, including Chappie, leading to the film’s climax.
I enjoyed the film, and I liked how Blomkamp didn’t waste screen time on anything unnecessary, keeping it tight and focused. He moves the plot along for much of the film but it does bog down a bit in the middle in getting Chappie ready to help with their heist. All the actors do a good job, even Yo-Landi and Ninja in their debuts, and Jackman made for a great villain in his somewhat limited screentime. I enjoyed the climax of the film though the ending was a little “eh” for me, not in a bad way but felt very much like how Christopher Nolan might have ended it. I didn’t dislike the ending but I felt I was watching a Nolan film when the third act and ending played out.
When the main character in your film is a motion capture performance it can be tricky to get the emotions across. In the new generation Planet of the Apes films CG helps to display emotions in the apes’ faces but what about a robot as the lead? There are several tricks used (parts of Chappie’s face functions as robotic eyebrows and eyes) but Copley did a good job getting across the emotional development through his voice work and mannerisms.
“Chappie” is a good film, nothing groundbreaking as A.I. has been done before but it’s rare when the A.I. does not become the world conquering downfall of humanity. Here it’s viewed as a robot given life and the decisions he makes along the way. Honestly you could put a human in Chappie’s role and not have the film change much except for the ending. Like I said before I am a fan of Blomkamp’s (so perhaps my opinion is biased) and I feel this is another good addition to his catalogue.