Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Chappie Review

Remember when Neill Blomkamp burst on the scene with his feature length debut District 9? That rich, exciting science fiction slice of awesomeness that earned every bit of its box office success and Best Picture nomination? Remember that?

That was awesome. What the hell happened?

His sophomore effort Elysium was a bit misguided but I still found plenty of stuff to like there, and my overall opinion of it is that it was disappointingly mediocre. I would kill for disappointingly mediocre right now. Chappie is disappointingly bad. Elysium did a poor job of world building and its screenplay missed the mark far too often. Chappie did a poor job of everything building. There is no world to give a shit about. Every human character is not only underdeveloped but just terribly written in general, leaving absolutely no attachment to a single beating heart on the screen at any point.

My favorite part is when tragedy strikes at least one of the people in the film, and they treat it like Willem Dafoe in Platoon. Moving music booming as the person falls to their death in slow motion. See, this only works if we actually give a shit about them. In Chappie, any potential consequence suffered by a living, breathing person should be greeted with a shrug of the shoulders and a check of your watch, wondering how much longer you will have to sit through it.

Some films grow on you a bit during the days after you screen it. Chappie is getting worse the more I ponder the decisions Blomkamp made. Why the hell are these Die Antwoord people in the film at all? My first instinct is to assume it was an attempt at authenticity, but I challenge you to take this entire experience seriously because of their presence in a majority of the movie. Authenticity dies if you uncomfortably laugh whenever people attempt to deliver dialogue in terribly unconvincing fashion, because, well, they can't act. They aren't actors. After searching for them on Google, which I had to do because I had no earthly idea what they were, it turns out they are a "South African rap-rave group", which again points to the authenticity argument because of their country of origin.

Again though, I would argue authenticity is meaningless if by using people who actually resemble the culture being displayed it completely derails the film and any chance of it being remotely decent. So this brings me to my next major issue with Chappie, and that is the fact that real actors with real ass talent were in the movie but completely underutilized and poorly written. Hugh Jackson and Sigourney Weaver not only couldn't save Chappie, they just pissed me off more because I wondered, why am I watching these weird musicians when I could be watching real actors act? Why am I subjected to this mockery of performance art?

Now that I have covered everything wrong with Chappie, and there is plenty so I am sure I missed some stuff, I will say this: I liked Chappie himself, the robot of which the film is named after. Not always, as the writing again was atrocious and it seemed like Blomkamp couldn't quite maintain a focus of character development and consistent progression, but at the very least he managed to make this example of artificial intelligence endearing at times. Like, for brief instances I gave a shit about him and his pain resonated with me, which is far more than I can say about anyone else in the cast.

Earlier today when venting about Chappie, I made a comparison between Blomkamp and M. Night Shyamalan and I stand by it in at least one respect: the fact that they started off with not only critical successes but films that were nominated for the biggest prize in cinema, and then it all went downhill from there. However, as I have thought this over throughout the day, this is extremely unfair to M. Night. His second feature Unbreakable, while not perfect, managed to entertain me a hell of a lot more than Elysium did, and while I have one major qualm with Signs it is like Vertigo or Lawrence of Arabia compared to Chappie.

Neill Blomkamp's next film will be a sequel to Aliens. Yay? Nope. I'm afraid this dude is a turd who got lucky once. He's the Chumbawamba of science fiction filmmakers. I will continue to cherish my Blu-ray copy of District 9 regardless, but I have zero faith Blomkamp will ever be able to even sniff that level of quality again. 


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