Finally! A 2015 movie! I see TONS of movies, but almost every movie in the theatres lately has still been a 2014 release, despite it coming into theatres in mid February, etc etc… The first true 2015 movie I have seen has been Chappie, and although it is the kind of film that isn’t for everyone, it was definitely a hit for me.
Chappie, directed by Neill Bloomkamp, is almost like a love letter to hardcore District 9 fans. Bloomkamp is saying, “I know you want a District 9 sequel, but hopefully this will tie you over.” Tie me over it did. In a nutshell, the film is set in a not-too-distant future Johannesburg where the police force now uses a fully operational fleet of robots instead of human officers. Crime has gone down significantly and generally, people are happy with these new robots the company Tetravaal has produced. The robots’ creator, Deon Wilson, is secretly working on another project to create sentient robots that can feel and think for themselves. Denied by the company to use one of their robots as a test subject for his new project, Deon steals one of the robots that is going to be destroyed anyway and decides to test his new program on it. While on his way home from the Tetravaal offices, he is hijacked by a street gang who need Deon’s help in order to use the police robots to earn themselves a large sum of money that they owe to one of the city’s most powerful gangsters. The street gang, which includes Die Antwoord’s Ninja and Yolandi, find the test robot in the back of his van, and force Deon to install the program on it, and to no surprise, it is a success; Chappie is born.
For starters, I must say that I was really hesitant when I learned that Die Antwoord was going to be in this film. As a huge Die Antwoord fan I obviously love Ninja and Yolandi, but I wasn’t sure how they would work in a film. Honestly, the two of them did a great job and I am glad that Neill Bloomkamp decided to put them in Chappie. One thing that slightly bothered me was that there was no effort to make both Ninja and Yolandi look any different. They basically just played themselves (sometimes even wearing Die Antwoord t-shirts) with references to their band found all throughout the film. Despite the two of them not actually playing themselves (more or less extreme versions of themselves), it did just feel like Die Antwoord. I am very indifferent to the way that Ninja and Yolandi were in the film because it worked extremely well, but as a Die Antwoord fan and fully knowing who they were, I was basically just watching Die Antwoord in a movie. My point is, when you watch a film, you shouldn’t think that the actor is themselves; instead they should become the character. Hugh Jackman was ‘Vincent Moore’, Dev Patel was ‘Deon Wilson’, and Sigourney Weaver was ‘Michelle Bradley’. For those who aren’t familiar with the band Die Antwoord, this was probably not an issue because no one would know that Ninja and Yolandi were ‘in a sense’ playing themselves, and instead people would just think they are actors dressing up like that. I did love them in the film though, and it was fun to see a niche band like Die Antwoord get more attention in the spotlight. They also played the roles great; I don’t really have any complaints with their acting. The casting in general was excellent for this. It was fun to see Hugh Jackman play a villain, and Dev Patel played the genius engineer great. Lots of stereotypical characters in this movie…but it worked.
I really enjoyed the concept of creating a sentient being in this movie and the way that it was done. I absolutely loved the character of Chappie. He was lovable, innocent, and to an extent, tragic. His character development was done very well with the conflicting parenting style he was receiving from the street gang and then from his maker, Deon. His innocence was rather heartbreaking at times and you really felt for this poor character who was just trying to understand where he fit in this world. I’ll admit, the amount of cliches used in this movie were kind of off the charts, and the amount of parallels to District 9 were plentiful, but somehow you couldn’t help but fall in love with Chappie and his struggle to find out just who he was inside. I couldn’t look away the entire time I was in the theatre because I was so interested to see what was going to happen to Chappie and the characters who surrounded themselves around him.
As you guys know, I love scores, and this movie had probably one of the best scores I am going to hear this year. Hans Zimmer is slowly becoming one of my favourite composers as of recent. Interstellar, and now this? He is really producing some amazing stuff here guys. The score to Chappie is very eerie and electronic. Zimmer goes heavy on the synthesizers to make a very robotic and almost retro sound. There is even a track that sounds completely 8 bit. It is sad and has classic Zimmer buildups that leave you wanting to hear more, and more, and more. Zimmer really played with synth and even dubstep styles in his score to The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and I feel like he completely nailed it for Chappie. At times it is extremely reminiscent of Brad Fiedel’s score to Terminator 2 with a Zimmer edge. I absolutely love what Zimmer did with this movie and since it is completely up my alley, it will probably remain in my top five scores for 2015. It is going to be very difficult to top this one actually. It’s honestly like if you mixed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Terminator, and then had Danny Elfman add in the final touches. It’s not ridiculously ‘out there’ like some of Elfman’s stuff, but it’s the perfect amount of creepy with a touch of the 80s.
Visually, Chappie was stunning. I thought all of the police droids, especially Chappie, were extremely well done. Everything looked perfectly real. Bloomkamp is a native South African and thus he tends to use Johannesburg as the setting, but I love that. Everything in movies, whether it is aliens, robots, or anything catastrophic seems to take place in either Washington, New York City, or Tokyo. It is nice to change up the formula a little bit and have some of the craziness go down in South Africa. It’s also a really unique setting to shoot films and gives a sense of grittiness that just cannot be achieved in Manhattan.
Overall, I highly recommend this film. I realize that it is incredibly similar to District 9 (no joke, there are so many similarities it’s kind of unreal), but if you really enjoyed that film, you will probably really like Chappie. Yes the film is a big marketing campaign for Die Antwoord, and most of the songs used in the film are from their catalogue, but it truly fits. Being a Die Antwoord fan does make me really biased, but I do know that Die Antwoord has a very unique sound and with them being from South Africa, their music does add a sense of realism to street life in Johannesburg. It’s quirky, odd, electronic, and ‘zef’ as they would say. There is action, a lovable robot, and tear-jearking moments. If you are going into this film wanting absolute realism, you should maybe tone that down a notch and just accept the wonderful and heartwarming story of Chappie.
My Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Image Credit: https://wallwidehd.com/chappie-2015-movie-poster-wallpaper/