Chappie (2015) DVD (film review).

A combination of ‘Robocop’ and ‘Frankenstein’, with a little ‘Star Wars’ chucked in, ‘Chappie’ is the latest offering from director Neill Blomkamp (‘District 9’) and, again, it is set in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Chappie (voiced by Sharlto Copley) begins life as a law enforcement robot designed to help the human police forces keep a lid on the excessive violence prevalent in the streets where gangs use every method at their disposal to rule their narcotics empires. Deon Wilson (played by ‘Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel) is the young genius working at Tetravaal, a large corporation responsible for creating robots, who has engineered the software to make them work. He has a rival, the sly and nasty Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), who promotes his own over-the-top killing machine robot which he wants the company to adopt but was overruled by the big chief, Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver), in favour of Wilson’s more human-like design.


For months, Wilson has been trying to perfect the software to create a self-aware robot mind without luck but, one day, he succeeds, only Michelle will not permit the go-ahead. Undeterred, he finds a damaged robot and surreptitiously installs the software. Things don’t run smooth because he is kidnapped by the small-time gang lord Ninja (apparently played by rapper Ninja himself), his girlfriend Yo-Landi Visser and another associate. Ninja owns $20 million to a really rough despotic gang lord with only a few days to go for collection time otherwise, an unfortunate end awaits. The self-aware robot, named Chappie by the endearing and mothering Yolandi, is just like a child but becomes innocently aware of its surroundings. Meanwhile, Ninja wants to turn him into a ruthless gangster.

Vincent steals codes for the police robots and then activates them, so allowing an eruption of violence in the city. He thinks this will enable conditions for his own mind-controlled police robot to take over but things do not really go as planned and it ends up being a shootout between him and Wilson, the war gangs and the police. The development of Chappie’s personality, from an innocent child to being a gang member, is one of the most interesting aspects of the movie. He is Wilson’s creation, a cerebral Frankenstein, but is he a monster? Will he be coerced into killing? Is he a product of the environment or will he be ultimately governed by his programming? These are questions which are answered as the movie progresses.

Although we have seen much of the stuff before in various other Science Fiction movies throughout the years, ‘Chappie’ is somehow refreshingly new, entertaining and enjoyable. The acting is good, likewise the directing and the script. When the movie came out, it wasn’t received all that well, which is difficult to understand, but now on DVD a lot more people will be able to judge its merits. It’s a really good movie, maintaining interest throughout with moments of comedy, sadness, despair, action and excitement. It has it all.

The DVD comes with a few extras, such as trailer, deleted scenes, sub-titles and so on, but much less than the Blu-ray. Of course, it’s cheaper than the Blu-ray and the definition is almost as good. You’ve got to weigh up the balance between price and content and, at the end of the day, it’s the same movie whatever you choose.

Movies from South Africa haven’t disappointed over the years and this is another example of what can be done in that country. When we watch robot movies, there is always the fear that the robots will take over and we will be at their mercy though here, we see that the opposite is true and that the real bad guys are the humans themselves. If anything, they will be our salvation! Yes, ‘Chappie’ is an excellent movie and one to recommend.

Rod MacDonald

July 2015

(region 2 DVD: pub: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 1 DVD 120 minute film with extras. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ASIN: B00UC9BO4U)

cast: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser

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