The critics buried it, but Chappie just might be first the great action flick of 2015.
By Troy-Jeffrey Allen
Directed by Neill Blomkamp (Elysium, District 9) and starring Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman, and the oddball musical duo called Die Antwoord, Chappie took a beating by the critics when it hit theaters a few weeks back. Fortunately, I was oblivious to all of this when I walked into the theater to catch Blomkamp’s latest a few days ago. After catching the film, I instantly became curious about why no one was talking about it. That’s when I saw the reviews…
Chappie is exactly what the ads promised: A strange film about an android police officer (motion captured by Sharlto Copley) who becomes self-aware. And despite what Rotten Tomatoes’ 30% rating says, I’m actually happy to report that not only is the film entertaining but it is downright mesmerizing to watch. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that Chappie has every reason to end up becoming a cult classic. How many reasons? Oh, I can think of maybe 4…
1. Hugh Jackman is the heavy. And he is damn good at it.
Let’s just get this out the way. Hugh Jackman is a great performer who makes poor role choices. From Van Helsing to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Jackman always puts 100% into whatever film he is in — good or bad. Fortunately, Jackman brings that workman-like diligence to Chappie, taking simple character motivations and informing them with the type of homicidal intensity that made us love him as Wolverine.
2. It is wonderfully bizarre.
While the concept for Chappie had plenty of Internet teeth-suckers comparing it to Short Circuit ahead of release, the fact of the matter is that Blomkamp’s film has more in common with Robocop and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial than anything.That’s right, this film is like some weird cyberpunk bastard birthed from the minds of Paul Verhoeven and Steven Spielberg. In the same breath, Chappie can be saccharine sweet and completely and totally unapologetic. This mix makes the movie seem predictable at first, but Blomkamp and co-screenwriter Terri Tatchell inject their story with so much energy and swagger (yes, swagger) that it side-steps any type of pigeonholing.
3. Die Antwoord
One of the advantages of me walking into Chappie with no expectations was the fact that I underestimated how much of this film is about Die Antwoord’s Yo-Landi Visser and Ninja. Not only are they the focus of the film but they carry the movie as much as Chappie. This is yet another example of the movie’s unconventional style. In a film starring award-winning actors like Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, and Sigourney Weaver, it is Sharlto Copley‘s motion capturing and the South African hip hop duo with no feature film credits that steal the show.
4. It is a bold film.
Like Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block, the film goes against the conventional good vs. evil dynamic and introduces audiences to characters that fall into that oh so uncomfortable gray area. Without giving too much away, Blomkamp and Tatchell have a message they want to convey to their audience: No one is born evil, they are taught how to be evil. That message is personified not just by Chappie but the humans that interact with the robot as well. Throughout, people are trying to instruct Chappie on how to behave. In doing so, they expose their own hopes and fears for the world. Refreshingly, deciding which character is right and which character is wrong is a question that audience members have to ask themselves instead of letting the movie provide an answer for them.
Troy-Jeffrey Allen writes about action/adventure for Action A Go Go. He is a comic book writer whose works include BamnComics.com, The Magic Bullet, Dr. Dremo’s Taphouse of Tall Tales, and the Harvey Award nominated District Comics. In addition, Allen has been a contributing writer for ComicBookBin.com, OfNote Magazine, and ForcesOfGeek.com. His work has been featured in the City Paper, The Baltimore Sun, Bethesda Magazine, The Examiner, and The Washington Post. Yes, he wrote this bio