Review by Jon Godfrey for Mr. Will Wong
Born in Johannesburg, Neill Blomkamp immigrated to Canada in 1997. Here he honed his cinematic skill set, and in 2009, unleashed District 9 on the world. Therein he established his style: low-tech Sci-Fi set in the Johannesburg of an alternate reality. He also opened up his discussion of sentience, the value of life, and the root of existence.
These philosophical subjects are also the heart of Blomkamp’s latest Film, Chappie. Set in yet another alternative version of contemporary Johannesburg, Chappie see’s the city as a warring Metropolis under the thumb of ruthless Criminals and a mechanized Police Force. The latter is the brainchild of Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), a genius young programmer who develops a series of Scouts with artificial intelligence. His success leads him to take a step forward, to develop a synthetic lifeform with sentience. This self-awareness soon awakens in Scout 22, a junkyard Robot that falls into the hands of Soweto Crime Lords.
Ninja & Yolandi Vi$$er of Die Antwoord act as said crime lords. Playing altered versions of their musical personalities, the two act as guides through the harsh Battlegrounds of Johannesburg. Their performance is impressive. As the Android’s Mommy & Daddy they stimulate Chappie’s aggressive growth through equally aggressive means. And rightfully so, because lurking in the shadows is a power hungry Warmonger played by Hugh Jackman.
The Cast is dynamic in its offering, especially the voice of Chappie himself, Sharlto Copley. Copley is a staple for any Bloomkamp Film, and he and several artistic teams help bring the titanium box to life. Chappie is charming, intriguing, and the means of expanding upon Bloomkamp’s queries about existence.
Chappie asks, what is the essence of life? Is there an energy that animates us, and can that energy transcend from flesh to other elements? Erudite discussions dressed in the edgy attire of the Zef counter culture.
The Zef culture refers to poor White Afrikaans, particularly those who adorn themselves in flashy apparel to mask their muddied skin. Blomkamp has slightly referenced this Sub-Culture in his other Projects, but never with such a clear and contemporary brush as he does in Chappie. Having wanted Ninja for Elysium, it is at last a joy to watch what the two have accomplished in this new Project.
Chappie is the best Film to hit the screens of 2015. Though this year has seen several stellar Films in just a few short months, Chappie stands alone in its vision and execution. Yes, its violence and language will limit the interest of some, but its heart and style will reward those who endeavor to see it. After all, this is what Movies are all about: nuanced visuals that question our interpretations of reality. Expand your mind today and see Chappie while it’s in theatres now.
Sony Pictures Canada release CHAPPIE on Friday, March 6, 2015.