Written by Raeez Jacobs
To promote the highly anticipated film Chappie (16), which is currently screening in cinemas across South Africa, Sony Pictures and OMD hand-selected 12 YouTube influencers from across Europe to take part in a live streaming event by popular online video gaming platform, Twitch. Each influencer helped create Europe’s largest shareable piece of artwork alongside London’s most influential graffiti artists from Graffiti Life. A 60 x 10 foot graffiti wall with iconic imagery from the movie was produced. Before reading our film review, check out this video about the graffiti project.
Our film review: Chappie
From the moment it begins, Chappie is a jam-packed thrill that will please adventure seekers and sci-fi fanatics alike. With epic-cum-explosive scenes (literally), it’s also very much a hard-hitting, and at times nail-biting, action flick, that is considerably more profound than most of its kind.
True to his element, director Neil Blomkamp (District 9 and Elysium) does a great job of depicting South African reality, with the quasi-cosmopolitan and not-so-pretty industrial terrain of Johannesburg in the background, alongside a fully-fledged science fiction narrative. Much like District 9’s undertones of xenophobic violence, the robots in Chappie symbolise the stereotypical ideal of the South African public, whose sentiments over service delivery, poverty, violence and corruption are echoed through the re-imagining of society by Blomkamp. His apocalyptic-charm helps him visualize a country that is already factual, and one that could very well emerge with digital and technological innovations advancing way beyond human progress.
The reshaping of the police service, from the SAPS to the RSAP (Robot South African Police) is a direct portrayal of the trending dream shared by many dissatisfied by those who are meant to protect them. In Blomkamp’s marvellous imagination, control and humanity are controlled by a society where power is shifted from man to machine. Although, the way people treat robots in the futuristic thrill is much like the way human relations are conducted.
The most intelligible feature must be the humanness the robots present, especially Chappie, the makings of a geek engineer, Deon Wilson, whose job at Tetravaal is under constant threat by rival “makers”, like Vincent Moore (played by X-Men’s Hugh Jackman) who are poised on benefiting from the use of robots for their own sinister purpose.
It’s almost entertaining, or funny even, to see the constant references to the cultural landscape of the country the film is set in. It’s almost ironic how Chappie is socialized into a Coloured person, most notably through his accent, this mirrors the idea that Coloured people are an unknown or forgotten race, evident in the lack of a human character of this group. But Chappie transcends race as the film speeds onward, emerging instead as a symbol of South African people, seen in visuals where the South African flag, like a tattoo, creates this representation.
Blomkamp’s tenacity and knack for describing the future, coupled with his ability to use melodrama productively, makes him a prodigy to be cast in a league of his own. The film tells a provocative and gruelling story, and I liked the eccentricity infused through the dynamic duo, Ninja and Yolandi of the musical group, Die Antwoord, whose tongue-in-cheek and natural extravagance introduce visual appeasement and humour, that would otherwise have been non-existent.
Chappie is a refreshing depiction of everything life could become, positively and negatively, as humans grapple with incorporating things they don’t understand into their world. But more than that it’s an expression of dissecting the racial preoccupations of a post-apocalyptic nation, where the need for control and power over violence is necessary, but who may very well tarnish all such control, through that very control. Almost resembling the irregular way power and control are played out in the world’s most riveting political arena.
Genre: Action Adventure
Synopsis: From the directors of District 9 and Elysium comes Chappie, starring Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, with Sigourney Weaver and Hugh Jackman. Every child comes into the world full of promise, and none more so than Chappie: he is gifted, special, a prodigy. Like any child, Chappie will come under the influence of his surroundings – some good, some bad – and he will rely on his heart and soul to find his way in the world and become his own man. But there’s one thing that makes Chappie different from anyone else: he is a robot. The first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. That’s a dangerous idea – and it’s a challenge that will pit Chappie against powerful, destructive forces that would ensure that he is the last of his kind.
Director: Neil Blomkamp (Elysium, District 9)
Cast: Hugh Jackman (Wolverine, X-Men), Sharlto Copley (Elysium, District 9), Sigourney Weaver (Avatar, Alien(s), Die Antwoord (Musicians), Dev Patel (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Newsroom, Slumdog Millionaire)