In the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. But now, the people are fighting back. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. As powerful, destructive forces start to see Chappie as a danger to mankind and order, they will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo and ensure that Chappie is the last of his kind.
From the initial trailers that got released, it was pretty clear that this would be some kind of hi-tech Short Circuit reboot and to some extent it is very much so. If you can imagine Steve Guttenberg’s Crosby and Fisher Steven’s Ben characters amalgamated into Dev Patel’s character and Hugh Jackman ‘s taking over G.W Baily’s Skroeder role, it’s pretty much hits the nail on the head. Now replace beautiful Stephanie with three totally unlikable South African ‘Gangsta’s’ (two of them being Capetown Rap-rave group Die Antwoord) and this is where the film struggles. Even though Neill Blomkamp is a very visual and dynamic director, he needs start venturing out of his comfort zone and setting all his films around the slums of Johannesburg but it’s becoming a bit repetitive now in terms of style and visualisation and doesn’t offer anything new. I’d be dishearten if the new instalment in the incredible Alien franchise (a hot topic during the release of this film which overshadowed it) is set against the same backdrop. Coming back to the three main characters, the ‘Gangsta’s’, I struggled with them throughout the film. One dimensional, annoying and really unlikeable from the offset, I can understand where Blomkamp was coming from but give us at least ‘something’ to like about them! Considering Sigourney Weaver receives part of the top billing of the film, I felt that she was underused in this and her role was more of an extended cameo. It’s a shame because in terms of story, Blomkamp hit it on the head and delivers throughout with a nice balance of emotional and light comedy and some stunning set pieces
Onto the more positive aspects of the film, Dev Pate’s performance of Deon, Chappie’s maker and wide eyed scientist on the verge of advancing technology to the next level , is impressive throughout and carries the film’s emotional centre by always trying to do the right thing and defending his creation no matter what the cost. Huge Jackman playing the film’s villain, Vincent Moore, was surprising and refreshing to see and proves that he can do more than just X-Men films. The film’s real star though is Chappie himself. A combination of Johnny 5 and Appleseed . Brought to life by Sharlto Copley with some amazing motion capture technology, this performance basically matches the kind of work that fellow mo-cap king Andy Serkis performs. From his ‘birth’ in the confines of an abandoned warehouse, his child like approach to everything is enlightening and endearing. The little nod to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe did make me smile. Chappie’s progression of consciousness up unto the rather brilliant third act (involving what I can only describe a very pissed off Chappie Vs a flying ED-209) is superb and the film’s final scenes do tug on a heart string or two.
Chappie assembles itself on Blu-ray with a 1080/24p MPEG4-AVC transfer that preserves the film’s original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Also getting the official ‘Mastered in 4K’ badge from Sony, This film’s video quality is just perfection. Shot digitally and transferred from it’s original source, Chappie’s pixel perfect presentation is glorious on any HD television. Being digitally filmed, the image on display is sleek and smooth throughout and with a vibrant colour palette (a good example are Die Antwoord’s warehouse interiors). Black levels were spot on throughout and considering Sony had some issues in the US with Black Crush affecting a few of their high profile releases recently, I’m happy to say that Chappie is not affected at all.
Chappie comes equipped with an English DTS-MA 7.1 audio mix. I had a few issues with the dialogue throughout the film. There were a number of times that I had to turn my amp volume up to hear what they were saying. Apart from that, the audio mix was fine. A nice use of LFE being used for the film’s more exciting set pieces and giving the film’s music ample support throughout. Surround activity was spot on with all 7 speakers in active use with some great sound effects panning to and from the front speakers. The film’s player generate subtitles for Hippo’s dialogue (a very heavy South African accent but still very audible) can be a bit difficult to read due to their placement on the screen
Alternate Ending: (5:15) – A slightly re-jigged ending.
Extended Scene: Very Bad Men (1:30) – a brief snipped of deleted footage
From Tetra Vaal to Chappie (7:30): A brief behind the scenes look at the plot and writing process, the characters and locations of the film and design process .
Jozi: Real City and a Sci-Fi Setting (15:03): A look at how Johannesburg served as the perfect backdrop for Chappie
Chappie: The Streetwise Professor (9:31): This short featurette looks at Chappie’s character and Sharlto Copley mo-cap performance
We Are Tetravaal (5:53): A quick overview of the cast of the film
Keep it Gangster (7:07): A look at the ‘Gangsta’s’ of the film
Rogue Robot: Deconstructing the Stunts and Special Effects (14:21): A look at the film’s visuals design which also includes some interesting work on the in camera special effects process
Arms Race: The Weapons and Robots (6:25): A brief overview of the film’s firepower and robots that are welding it
Bringing Chappie to Life: The Visual Effects (8:01): A look at the design process of Chappie and it’s gradual development from concept to final film
The Reality of Robotics (5:34): A look at where the human race is currently with Artificial Intelligence.
The Art of Chappie Gallery : Separated into different chapters, Chappie, Moose, Yobot, Production Design, Storyboards, Director Sketches, and Poster Art, this is a collection of concept art for the film.
Previews : Trailer for current and upcoming Sony releases
Crimespree (27:00): A multi-part scene breakdown detailing all of the preparation and on-set chaos choreographed to film the illegal action within Chappie, including director’s insights, stunt coordination, cinematography and special effects work. Worth noting that there is no menu on this disc
Chappie is a real mixed bag and difficult to say if I liked or disliked. There are scenes that are brilliantly executed and highly enjoyable and reaches that rush that you’d expect from action films, but the handling of the main characters (apart from Deon, Chappie and Vincent who really carry the film throughout) is a real killjoy and leaves a bit of a sour taste in your mouth. There is no middle ground at all to play with. AV was spot on throughout (with the exception of the dialogue issues). There is just over an hour’s bonus footage to explore afterwards. Chappie is certainly a film that sci-fi fans should check out though.