Chappie


Viewed – 21 July 2015  Blu-ray

I must admit I’m becoming quite an admirer of South African director Neill Blomkamp’s brand of sci-fi action thrillers.  His debut, the acclaimed District 9 certainly impressed, and his follow up the underrated Elysium was one of my favourite movies of recent years.  So sitting down to this latest, albeit somewhat more personal effort I’ll admit I was excited.

Chappie

A robotics scientist at a company that builds and runs an android police force, creates the first true artificial intelligence and installs it in a test robot fresh off the battle field.  However on-route home to do more tests, the robot is stolen by a group of desperate thugs who subsequently adopt it and name it Chappie.

Set in a near-future Johannesburg, Blomkamp’s movie stars Slum Dog Millionaire’s Dev Patel as the scientist, Hugh Jackman as a rival scientist and Sigourney Weaver as the head of the company.  Playing against type, Jackman is good fair and seems to be loving time out from Wolverine.  Weaver on the other hand get’s a rather limited, thankless role considering her Sci-Fi credentials, so it’s left up to Patel who is very good and a bunch of lesser-known but intriguing co-stars to carry the movie around a brilliant creation.  Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley (The A-Team, Maleficent) does a stellar job voicing the robot, instilling a naivety and energy to the character that really brings it to life.  We follow Chappie’s exploits from frightened child to becoming a hanging-with-the-homies gangster, whilst all the time being manipulated by gang leader Ninja and befriended by surrogate mother ‘Yo-Landi’.

YolandiThink a cross between eighties classic Short Circuit (Number Five is alive!) and genre favourite RoboCop (not the lacklustre remake) with some blatant borrowing of that movie’s key ideas even down to an Ed 209 look-a-like.  The story’s most fascinating aspect however; Chappie’s learning felt rushed, for a robot who has to pretty much grow up before our eyes (…how’d he know lying?), and the clichéd thugs / locales were straight out of the post-apocalyptic handbook.  Yet Blomkamp threw in enough stylish action and energy to keep this viewer smiling and entertained throughout – and that ending was sheer class.

On this evidence, I can’t wait to see what he does with Alien.

Verdict:  4 /5

Elysium


Viewed – 27 August 2013  Cinema

This was kind of a last minute decision.  I was after something with a bit more depth and a different flavor than what this summer has presented for the most part, and on seeing the trailer, it seemed this Matt Damon vehicle was exactly the ticket.  It’s 2154 and the wealthy live on a space station paradise while the rest of the population resides on a ruined, diseased Earth, until a man dreaming of escaping to the world above takes on a mission that could change everything.

Matt Damon;Sharlto Copley

Director Neil Blomkamp’s last movie the rightly acclaimed District 9 was one of the most refreshing and interesting science fiction movies I had seen in a long time, and that same approach and almost documentary style realism (give or take the odd futuristic idea) is carried over to this .., bigger in scale and concept but equal in emotion and intimacy.  Like Hollywood had taken on board what he had achieved originally and said, OK son – here’s a few extra million – wow us.  And wow us he does.  The setting although not exactly new (the idea of the wealthy separated from the impoverished has been played out since back in Blade Runner days) … does justice to an old idea with an above average turn from Damon as well as good support from Alice Braga and also a boo-hiss Jodie Foster (a first?) – weird (even for her) accent aside.  Stealing the show however is Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley (well, he was the star of District 9) who makes for one of the most relentless and brutal villains in movie history – I kid you not.  Influences from the world of video games can not go unnoticed either, with a clear borrow for Elysium from Mass Effect’s citadel.  Add to this a plot that is spilling over with immediacy and pace, and this was a breathless, gripping and fascinating experience.

Nit-picking would be to complain at the over-use of very strong South African accents considering the setting is Los Angeles, possibly echoing the director’s routes – but it’s a puzzling inclusion.  However Blomkamp still manages to prove himself a science fiction auteur, and with slick action and a dramatic, intense pace but with the intelligence to really make you care – I came away highly impressed,

Verdict:  5 /5

District 9


Viewed – 27 July 2010  Blu-ray

I had heard some good things about this, but had taken a while to get around to seeing it.  Telling the story of a race of aliens, derogatorily referred to as the prawns, who’s mothership one day appears hovering over Johannesburg – naturally curious, mankind investigate and discover a wealth of aliens onboard.  Soon they settle into makeshift shacks, cut off from the rest of the country.  They label this, crime-infested area District 9.  Yet some of the locales are still not happy, and with the threat of violence and rioting the government choose to relocate the aliens – and that’s where our intrepid reporter / agent Wickus (Sharlto Copley) comes in, all good intentions and thirsty for his moment in the spotlight and whatever promotion that may bring – but relocating the aliens brings its own dangers, when Wickus becomes infected from an experimental fluid the aliens have been secretly working on.

Continue reading