Sunday, 8 March 2015


With each new scene in Neill Blomkamp's Chappie, my thoughts, both critical and sympathetic, took a new turn, trying to evaluate precisely where the film went so wrong. Indeed, not even merely with each new scene, but with each new shot, or with each new line of dialogue. So, I'd settle on an answer: it's Die Antwoord, the rap group whose frontman and woman take roles in Chappie so large they're basically leads. Neither member of the group possesses basic acting abilities, and to hear them drone through each new line in the script is a painful, distancing experience. But then no, that's not the answer, they're not at fault: it's that script, Blomkamp's latest in a consistent run of clunky screenplays. Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell don't know how to write dialogue that sounds natural or even seems to feel right coming out of an actor's mouth. Even Chappie's scenario is cumbersome, a simple concept undone by too many ideas and muddled philosophies. Actually, maybe that's the answer: there's just too much going on in Chappie for it to properly function as a satisfactory action movie. The film toys with different ethical notions regarding artificial intelligence, but truncates that theme into simplistic strains that it bundles into functional characters, then uses these ideas as a conduit for naff comedy sketches, violent action set-pieces or plot threads that veer off in every direction yet never seem to go anywhere, before abandoning them. Or maybe it's those action scenes: they're needlessly violent at times, and overly bombastic, difficult to follow at virtually all times. Or maybe it's Chappie himself, one of the most irritating CGI characters in memory. Or maybe it's Hugh Jackman's rugby ball (what, because he's Australian?). Or maybe it's the pointless framing device, framing only the first scene of the film. Or maybe it's the fact that anyone thought an Indian kid from Harrow would ever be named Deon. With each new wrong turn that Chappie takes, it undoes all of its potential, all of its good intentions. What a mess.