Blomkamp’s Die Antwoord Video

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

It seems that with “Chappie,” South African director Neil Blomkamp has decided to continue getting progressively worse.

Blomkamp’s debut film, “District Nine,” was lauded by critics and viewers alike. And though Blomkamp’s second film, “Elysium,” would not garner as much acclaim, at least you could say that it showed promise.

“Chappie” has unfortunately broken that promise and cast an even greater amount of doubt as to whether Blomkamp can actually direct. It seems that with his newest film, Blomkamp has decided to forsake the characteristics that made his previous two films great and instead embrace their flaws as if they were virtues.

Before I get into the flaws of “Chappie,” I’ll quickly brief you on what it does well. One of the things that “Chappie” has going for it is its design. Blomkamp’s set and prop design are absolutely stunning as per usual for his films. His set design combined with his fantastic camera work make for some amazing visuals. Through his lens, Blomkamp captures the monotony of corporate environments, depicts the “Zef” subculture of Die Antwoord and South Africa and manages to make a dystopian Johannesburg seem beautiful.

Now to the film’s flaws. Perhaps one of the most glaring flaws with the film is its lack of subtlety. Neil Blomkamp attempts to make movies with a message, which is an admirable goal, but that only really matters if the movie works, which it doesn’t.

“Chappie” beats the audience over their heads with themes revolving around the ethicality of using machines as police officers, creating actual artificial intelligence and how easily children can become corrupted by poor role models.

“Chappie” has a set of messages that have been done a million times before, and because of the poor writing, fails to say anything new and even fails to say anything unoriginal in a meaningful way. The movie comes across as a poor mashup of the “Robocop” remake, “Transcendence” and a Die Antwoord music video.

The film attempts to be insightful and integrate emotion but it just feels overdone and very cliché. “Chappie” is filled with clichéd dialogue like, “Why did you make me if you knew I was going to die?”

Perhaps one of the most notable flaws of Blomkamp’s film is its writing. The film’s dialogue makes every character into a caricature. The acting is wooden, even from the main character Chappie, played by Blomkamp movie veteran Sharlto Copley. Now that says a lot considering he gave the best performance by far.

Die Antwoord, the South African rap/rave duo, essentially played a fictionalized version of themselves. The duo’s poor acting would initially make me think they were just bad actors, but the fact that acclaimed actors like Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman and Dev Patel gave an equally poor performance leads me to believe that the problem lies in Blomkamp’s writing and direction.

The film’s plot is as barren as a movie plot could be. It’s barely a plot, to be frank — the characters sort of meander about the entire movie with varying goals that never truly come together…at least not well. Furthermore, the film sacrifices a strong antagonist in favor of several smaller antagonists who are never really explored in the storyline beyond their stated goals, which usually revolves around money.

All in all, Neil Blomkamp only manages a film with big ideas but without much substance in his latest work, “Chappie.”

 

NOT RECOMMENDED: The movie’s visuals and set design are great, as are fights. But the poor writing just makes everything fall flat.