*** out of ****
Despite the majority of negative reviews it has received, Chappie isn't a bad movie. It really isn't. No, it is not as good as director Neill Blomkamp's debut feature, District 9, but it is still a worthy science fiction film with interesting takes on the existence of the soul, corporate backstabbing, and even the family unit.
It's the near future and police droids, created by wunderkind engineer Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), patrol the streets and control crime. When one of the droids is severely damaged in a firefight, Wilson rescues it from the scrapheap and is able to program it with the ability of consciousness. The robot, named Chappie (voice of Sharlto Copley), is stolen by a group of small time drug dealing thugs, and they plan to use Chappie on a major heist. Meanwhile, a rival engineer, Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman with a mullet), wants to replace Wilson's droids with an unholy tank of a killer robot called The Moose. Eventually, all these characters come together for a big action showdown, which is pretty exciting.
Ninja and Yolandi Visser, members of the South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord, play the drug dealers who inadvertently become Chappie's adoptive parents. Dad is a brute, but mom's maternal instincts kick in and there are some sweet moments between Visser and the child-like Chappie. There are many vivid characterizations here, so it is a shame that Sigourney Weaver's role as a corporate boss is underwritten.
Chappie has been compared to the 1986 comedy Short Circuit, about a robot who comes to believe that he is a living being. Well, guess what? Short Circuit isn't a very good movie (Its sequel is actually better.) and Chappie does a superior job of exploring the same themes.
Yes, the climax of Chappie comes off as a little silly, yet at the same time it is kind of bold that Blomkamp takes it as far as he does.