Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Movie Review: Chappie

I don't typically do movie reviews, partly because I don't get to see new movies as often as I would like, and mostly because what often makes a good movie for me is the cinamatics, not necessarily the story. Every now and again a great movie comes along that has a story worth reviewing. Chappie is one of those.

Now, as far as a movie goes it was ok. There was a lot of deus ex machina, I did not care for two of the main actors, it felt a lot like District 9 with robots, and several other issues that as a film lover I had problems with.

What I want to focus on is the story, or stories, as it were.

One of the things I love about Neill Blomcamp is that he is a master at allegory.  His films have so many layers and can appeal to so many different audiences. On the face, Chappie is a great sci-fi action film with lots of flash and a relatively action-oriented plot. He doesn't waste a lot of time on character introductions, and jumps right into the story.

But underneath the surface story there are some very deep questions. He makes the audience look at the difference between the poverty stricken criminals and the nerd who is doing well.  The criminals have plans and ideas, but they are geared around their own personal wants. They live life the way they want and act free, but are constantly trapped in situations that go from bad to worse.

The nerd is successful and doing well. He does not create for himself, but creates for the sake of society. When he is following societies rules, he is doing well. But when he starts making selfish choices, things start going bad for him.

 Blomcamp makes the audience analyze the way we teach our children and how it effects who/ what they become.  The nerd, Dion, teaches Chappie never to let anyone tell him he cannot do anything he wants. That he is a unique being and should be proud of that. He wants to make Chappie great. But he makes Chappie promise to live by his code. He believes that he is doing what is best for Chappie, but really he wants Chappie to make him look good.

The main criminal, Ninja, wants to make Chappie into a "Bad Ass Robot" who makes him lots of "monies" he tries to teach Chappie the things he believes will make Chappie tough, and help Ninja achieve his goals, but as the story goes along he becomes attached to Chappie. In the end, he risks his life to save Chappie, despite leading him down a very bad path solely for Ninja's gain.

Ninja's girlfriend Yolandi is a tough chick who clearly wants a different life. She is the first to take on the "mothering role" in teaching Chappie. She pours love and support into him, demonstrating her own desperate desire to be loved and accepted as she is. Her child-like approach to teaching and accepting Chappie demonstrates that she has never received this sort of care, and is merely acting out what she wanted so much.

Each of them loves Chappie in their own way, and each end up risking their lives for him in the end. However, if the audience had not seen Ninja go from purely selfish to caring concern, we would not have been able to see this deeper allogory on how parents may believe that they are doing what is best for their child, but are simply focusing on their own selfish view of how their child should be.

There are other brilliant layers to the story, such as the analysis of the "human element" that Vincent focuses on and how the AI ended up being more humane than the humans he deals with in the end.

There is also a very, very deep layer that leads us to question how failure effects people and leads us to be worse people in an effort to achieve success. It is most obviously played out with Vincent's character, but we see it in how Dion is willing to break rules to achieve success. We see it in how Ninja, Yolindi, and American who seem to be more wanabe's than hardened criminals step up their crimes and violence as they struggle to survive. We see it in how Chappie develops as well.

So many different layers and so many questions. A movie that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. The best of both worlds!

I was only able to touch on a few of the deeper messages I found in the film, but there were many others. What deeper messages did you get from the story? What questions did you have,  and what insights did you see? Share in the comments below.

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