RoboCop: the “cheeky blighter” years
Release Date: OUT NOW! 15 | 120 minutes Director: Neill Blomkamp Cast: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Yo- Landi Visser, Ninja, Hugh Jackman
There are so many
other films smashed together to make Chappie that it’s inevitable, really, that the result is some kind of shambling, uneven Frankenstein’s monster. Neill Blomkamp and fellow District 9 co- writer Terri Tatchell have apparently transformed into magpies and collected so many shiny cinematic trinkets to lob into the script that it’s almost laughable: RoboCop, The Iron Giant, Short Circuit, WALL- E, Transformers and, rather awkwardly, District 9 itself – replace Chappie with one of the Prawns, add some more guns and it’s extraordinarily similar.
Because so many elements are already familiar, the story consequently holds no surprises. Dev Patel’s genius tech developer invents a force of robot policemen to help on the streets of Johannesburg, then manages to make one of them sentient while he’s being held prisoner by street thugs Ninja and Yo- Landi ( both of whom give performances so bizarre they’re practically cartoon characters given flesh – not surprising, given that they’re South African rap stars who have no business doing any acting). The robot, Chappie – ably voiced by Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley as some kind of hybrid toddler/ hip- hop artist – then sets about learning what’s right and wrong, which is tough when your family is made up of criminals.
Add to this a gangster who’s got a beef with Ninja and, in what’s probably a plot twist too far, Hugh Jackman as a rival robot developer who wants to launch his own machine on the streets ( it’s called Moose, but basically it’s an unashamedly souped- up version of RoboCop’s ED- 209), and you’ve got the set- up for an entertaining coming- of- age actioner which ends, naturally, with mountains of explosions and gunfire.
So yes, Chappie is derivative, and you’ll see every plot twist coming from so far over the horizon you’ll have time to go and make a cup of tea before it arrives. But despite all of these drawbacks, it does still manage to be great fun, with astonishing effects work and energetic performances ( even from those misplaced musicians, who are definitely fun to watch, if not entirely convincing). Logic might not be its strong suit, but the bunny- eared Chappie himself is a hoot. Not entirely a success, then, but you won’t regret seeing it. Jayne Nelson Blomkamp cast Ninja and Yo- Landi after listening to their band, Die Antwoord, while making Elysium.
But Sue should really have been reading The Big Book Of Good Haircuts.