Blomkamp’s next film after Elysium.
Why did I watch it?
It was particularly recommended by my brother-in-law, who put me on to District 9 in the first place.
Did it meet expectations?
The Johannesburg police are making use of androids; so you might think the film owes its greatest debt to Robocop. In fact, it has a lot more in common with Short Circuit. The titular character develops consciousness, and Bomkamp explores the reactions of a small group who know this secret, including a gang of thugs and the man who created him (The Newsroom‘s Dev Patel in an enjoyably earnest performance: “You can go and count your narcotics in a in another room”).
The most impressive thing about this film is Chappie himself. His movements are extraordinary; fluid and graceful; his expressions are astonishingly mobile, and it’s easy to anthropomorphise him. The effect is mesmerising. My favourite moment is when Chappie, on the run, finds a dog in the wasteland and sits and strokes him.
Like Elysium it runs out of steam before the conclusion. Though the film doesn’t concern itself too much with AI itself, at its climax it compounds a peculiar interpretation of the theory of mind with a reverse ferret that is quite unexpectedly reductionist. (Incidentally if you want a piece of drama that explores identity rigorously and entertainingly, you’d struggle to do better than Doctor Who I.D. which guest stars both Gyles Brandreth and Helen Atkinson Wood).
Ultimately, despite the disappointing ending, Chappie is a distinctive twist on the films that inspired it, and Chappie himself is delightful, a brilliant character superbly realised. “I’ve got blings?… I’ve got blings!”
You should watch it if…
- You enjoyed Short Circuit and/or District 9.
You shouldn’t watch it if…
- You’re hoping for a rigorous philosophical and ethical exploration of AI
Next up: Crash (2004).