I don’t see a whole lot of movies in the theater. For the most part, I find the seats to be uncomfortable, the room to be unpleasant, and the other people to be distracting. I dislike that I cannot pause the show to go have a smoke or get a refill, that the theater is kept at a temperature I find difficult to endure, that the other patrons are allowed to wear perfume–and all this after I’ve been charged a $10 entrance fee and another $10 over-packaged concessions.
Theaters aren’t really my thing. I’m more of a Netflix guy than a United Artists guy. So it’s unusual that I actually take time off to do that.
It’s much easier to work myself into that when the entrance fee isn’t mine to provide, and I’m being brought to the event by my boss, who demands I charge the hours I’m missing from work to the corporate account. And also he bought V.I.P. tickets (those exist?), which offered much better seats than the common peasant enjoys.
So, I met Chappie.
Neill Blomkamp is, without a doubt, a talented storyteller. This is the second film of his I’ve seen (this and “District 9”), and he clearly has a particular method to his madness. For the most part, his main goal of looking at childhood through the lens of science fiction is met. The genre is at its best when examining the topics we take for granted today through the eyes of a non-human. Steven Spielberg tried to have this same conversation with the audience in “A.I”., but did not succeed in nearly the same capacity as Blomkamp has with “Chappie.”
Where Blomkamp tends to stumble is when he decides to tell more than one story. He very artfully creates this wonderful character in Chappie (voiced & motion-captured by Sharlto Copley), explores how the very first artificial intelligence might explore sentience, then asks the audience to care about the two murderous thugs (played by the two member South African band Die Antwoord) who become his surrogate parents when his creator has to go back to work. And also there’s an ex-soldier engineer (Hugh Jackman) who has to act villainous without justification or escalation. And Sigourney Weaver is there, too, in the most wooden performance I’ve ever seen from her. And there are other villains, but they’re opposed to the murderous good guys–other gang members, one of whom is owed twenty million dollars (for reasons) by our Mommy and Daddy Die Antwoord.
So in the end, you just root for Chappie and his creator (Dev Patel), who are absolutely the only innocent people in the film, and who are treated to the absolute worst in humanity without any reason.
I sound more critical than I feel. I enjoyed the film, overall, and I’m glad I didn’t really have any expectations–and if you plan to see it in the theater, I’d recommend you do the same.