It’s like Big Hero 6, if Baymax became a foul mouthed adolescent.
“Chappie” is the follow up offering from the gang behind the surprise hit “District 9”. This time we are at the dawn of Artificial Intelligence with a decommissioned police robot named Chappie becoming the first robot to learn and think for itself. Unfortunately, with most of what’s its being taught is coming from a group of thugs, the world isn’t quite sure if this is more scientific breakthrough or modern robot apocalypse. And I’m not exactly sure if this movie is a beautiful exploration of morality, or just a poor excuse for a mad max meets short circuit ripoff. Let’s just go with a bit of both.
Look, there’s a lot to really like here. For one I love the soundtrack. It’s feels modern and progressive and fits this strange future world really nicely. I also felt like visually the film was engaging and kinetic, just as District 9 was before it. But mostly where the movie succeeds for me is that the morality tale seems to work surprisingly well. I was impressed that through this lense of the future we got a pretty intense look at some really deep themes of creation, obedience, loyalty, rebellion, and nature vs. nurture. In those moments, I really felt something meaningful lingering and ready to move my emotions. And yet it never seemed to have the full impact it could have.
The reason? The story is just all over the place, and the focus gets lost in serving things like explosions, lame jokes, and over the top characters. Especially Hugh Jackman, who lets out all the stops on his insanity here. And the gangsters, sheesh. I mean, you know you’re dealing with a madman when despite the fact that he’s speaking the English language, you still need English subtitles on the screen. This heightened gutter punk gangster world may be interesting to look at, but it keeps me from buying into the reality of it. Plus there just isn’t a lot new here philosophically that hasn’t been explored in other artificial intelligent movies, it just doesn’t feel like we are asking any new questions. Because of that the non action moments can feel a bit slow and drawn out, and even vaguely repetitive. Also keeping it from hitting it’s mark, especially towards the end, is that the science of consciousness gets a bit ridiculous. I can suspend my disbelief to a certain point, but once that line gets crossed, my brain is simply too stubborn to accept what I’m seeing is real, and instead send a signal to my eyes to roll, which I’m pretty sure isn’t the response the makers were hoping for.
Overall, “Chappie” should get credit for big ideas and it’s visual flair. Even though they are lost in a mish mash of story problems and ridiculous science, there is still enough interesting material here to come to life with a C+