Look at the trailer for Chappie and you’re no doubt reminded of Robocop; AI; I, Robot; and most recently Ex Machina, among many other similar looking films.
And that’s where director and co-writer Neill Blomkamp comes a bit unstuck.
I’m a big fan of Blomkamp, his 2009 movie District 9 was superb and 2013’s Elysium had a lot going for it.
And Chappie isn’t a bad film, it’s just not as good as I hoped it would be.
All three films have central themes running through them - oppressed people (or aliens), a gritty realism, a good smattering of unknown actors, South Africa (or at least a ghetto existence), and Sharlto Copley.
Copley has been Blomkamp’s go-to man in all the movies and in this latest effort he’s the voice of Chappie and provides motion capture performance for the main ‘character’.
The story is set in the near future in South Africa where crime is so bad robotic police have been built to help keep control.
Their creator Deon (Dev Patel - Slumdog Millionaire), though, assembles one that can think for itself.
However, three criminals get hold of the droid, call it Chappie and try to teach it to help them in a major heist.
There’s also a sub-plot of Deon’s fellow engineer Vincent (Hugh Jackman) who has a loathing of sentient robots.
At the bottom of all this are the fundamental questions about existence and what it is to be human.
Depending on how many similar movies you’ve seen with this theme, though, will equate to how much you enjoy this film.
I’ve seen too many.
The acting is solid enough, although Sigourney Weaver is rather underused as the robot manufacturer’s boss.
The action is dramatic and there’s a different ending to what I expected.
And while this time Blomkamp hasn’t reached the heights he hit with District 9 there’s still plenty of potential to keep faith in his future projects.
These may well involve a remake or re-imagining of Alien, possibly again with Sigourney Weaver.
Film details: Chappie (15) 120mins
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman
Screening courtesy of Horsham Capitol