South African born writer/director Neill Blomkamp’s latest film Chappie follows on from District 9 and Elysium and is an interesting mix of both success and failure and originality and blatant copying. It also highlights how easily a writer can take the lazy route when driving plot lines and resorting to overly simplistic and totally unbelievable elements of both science and human nature.
The story revolves around a computer sciences geek Deon Wilson (played by Dev Patel, he of Slumdog Millionaire, The Newsroom and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel fame) who creates an Artificial Intelligence program to help his robots achieve a level of human consciousness. His place of employment has already used his technology to build robots that the police use to enforce the law in Johannesburg. Upper management is opposed to this, so he goes rogue to complete the task. This is when the story takes a rather large detour into ridiculousness.
Wilson is kidnapped by a group of hip-hop thugs lead by Ninja (Watkin Tudor Jones, a real life South African rapper, record producer and actor) who terrorizes Wilson but also helps him insert his AI program into a decommissioned robot. Once the program is installed, the robot essentially becomes a child and is taught the ways of life by both Wilson and the thugs. There are some interesting comments on nurture verses nature as the robot become more and more human.
The big finale borrows a bit too liberally from the film Robocop and the final end run takes science to unbelievable places. There are too many moments in the film that illustrate that working more diligently on the logic loop holes in the script would have helped immensely. The film errs on the side of big dumb entertainment, which is a bit of a shame as some of the ideas really showed promise. As it is, it’s entertaining but not much of a mental exercise. With Blomkamp’s stated intension of this being part one of a trilogy, here is hoping they work a little more believability into parts two and three.