It’s often difficult to use the word ‘overrated’, because it habitually carries a negative connotation. Simply put, just because someone dubs something ‘overrated’, it doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t enjoy it. It could just mean that it might not be as memorable to them as the masses proclaim it to be. And in my opinion, based on his previous works (District 9, Elysium), director Neill Blomkamp is overrated.
Blomkamp’s newest South African sci-fi production revolves around 2016 Johannesburg where crime has hit Gotham-city level chaotic. To answer this problem, the police force contracts a weapons manufacturing company to create humanoid robots that will act as policeman (Stop me if you’ve heard this premise before). However, the robots’ chief engineer, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), has greater aspirations. He wishes to create the first thinking/feeling robot mind much to the disapproval of his boss (Sigourney Weaver in a role as useless for her as the one she played in last winter’s Exodus).
After secretly stealing a faulty police drone to test his newly created Artificial Inteligence., Wilson is kidnapped by a trio of down on their luck gangsters (headed by South African hip hop duo Die Antwoord) who wish to use the robot for a massive heist. But before the gangsters can train robot Chappie (voiced by Sharlto Copley) to do their bidding, they must first raise his infant-like mind up. Meanwhile, Wilson’s rival (Hugh Jackman) seeks to get rid of all police drones in favor of his human controlled MOOSE attack robot.
Like Blomkamp’s previous works, the movie has a similar realistic feel to it thanks to practical special effects and imagery. But once again, in my opinion, Blomkamp seems to fall short on narrative and storytelling. Sure, Chappie’s journey is a heartfelt one, but it can’t quite shake off an all too familiar set up. Having a more fleshed out villain would help. But both Jackman’s Vince Moore and Brandon Auret’s brooding gangster, nicknamed “Hippo”, are nothing more than angry, greedy cliché foils.
If you come purely for action, you probably won’t be disappointed. The film features several entertaining sequences fit with the necessary explosions to fill Blomkamp’s usual quota. But if you’re looking for humor or an enriching, thought provoking plot that you’ll remember after more than a few days then look elsewhere. Personally, I didn’t find District 9 to be as awe-inspiring as others. And Elysium was entertaining, but nothing special. Chappie isn’t as original as District 9 but is as action packed as Elysium so it fits comfortably in between and shouldn’t be considered any more of a disappointment than anything else in Blomkamp’s inventory.
FINAL GRADE: C+