2014 / Director. Neill Blomkamp.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Following a series of highly ambitious and stylised short films director Neill Blomkamp burst onto the scene with his fantastic feature length debut, DISTRICT 9. He had announced himself as a new visionary, the likes of which we haven't seen since James Cameron blew us away with TERMINATOR. Following that film he bit off more than he could chew with ELYSIUM, a high-concept sci-fi that took his DISTRICT 9 aesthetic and injected multiples of millions of dollars more into it. The result was a bit of a wreck... enjoyable, but overly ambitious. CHAPPiE is his third film and he has stripped things back and toned down the visceral. It is still incredible high in terms of concept but it benefits from a simpler story and a basic emotional core. Being a child of the 80s Blomkamp's influences are obvious. CHIPPiE presents itself as a clear combination of SHORT CIRCUIT and ROBOCOP and the story has been placed in Johannesburg, which is where Blompkamp hails from and is most familiar with. The story revolves around a robot, Chippie, which is the first with absolute consciousness. He is born (activated) with an infant's mind and must learn as an infant would. The story sees him end up in hands of three low life criminals and he is conflicted with the moral code instilled in him by his creator and the thug life as demanded of him by his new owners. The two lead thugs are played by the South African rap duo Die Antwoord. If I wasn't already a huge fan of their I would have had difficulty accepting them as leads in a film like this, but I AM a fan and so I totally bought into it. Their grungy, industrial punk style and attitude plays well in this environment and rapper Ninja provides a particularly unique and humorous nuance. They play fictitious versions of themselves and fans would completely understand their act and how they're playing it... but people who don't know them will struggle. Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver also star but they are relegated to secondary roles, which I thought gave the film extra strength. And of course the star of the film is Chappie... and what a creation. This is a character full of heart, innocence and integrity. To instil this robot character with so much personality and to evoke a such strong emotional response from the audience (well me anyway) is a job done well... and then some. The FX are incredible and the action is excellent. Blomkamp has imagined, realised and executed his vision in a stunning fashion and he gets full kudos from me. Hans Zimmer provides another excellent score and his music is complimented by Die Antwood's own music. It all gels together nicely. CHIPPiE definitely overstays its welcome and would benefit with 20 minutes removed but I wouldn't let such a small qualm override what I consider to be an excellent film.