25 October 2015

Was Chappie Really That Bad?

At least in terms of its themes, if Pinocchio, Oliver Twist, Robocop, and Short Circuit ever got bored and decided to start fucking then Chappie would be the spunky mess that gets left on the bed sheets. Set in the near future, Johannesburg has become so shitty that the South African government has had to invest in a squadron of attack robots to try and stem the flow of crime. These cyborgs have pinpoint accuracy, armour plating, and are as ruthlessly efficient at stopping wrong-doers as the American police are with little, unarmed, black children. Meanwhile the robots creator Dev Patel has just figured out how to make his products a little less murdery and a little more thinky which he celebrates by having Chappie, his prototype, promptly stolen from him by a couple of criminals. By coincidence, it's also worth noting that the two kidnappers are two of the biggest fuck-nuggets I've ever seen... more on them later I suppose. Essentially Chappie tells the story of the worlds first, completely sentient robot, and how it's forced to choose its morality whilst simultaneously learning the hard facts about how shite our species really is.

This is the third film from Director Neill Blomkamp after the world saw his District 9 and claimed him to be a genius, before then watching his Elysium and instantly retracting it. Sadly for him it seemed that his difficult second album led directly onto his piece-of-shit third one, with reviews for Chappie generally being as negative as a pregnancy test that's covered in Nun's piss. Obviously I'm nothing more than a space-chimp clinging to its own shitty existence on an obscure planet full of equally pointless lifeforms, but for what it's worth, I too had my mind blown by District 9. Sure it had its own distinct style whilst also being a metaphor for South Africa's history of racial segregation, but who doesn't love a film about some giant fucking prawns?! Elysium too was a film that dared to comment on the state of healthcare and economic deprivation whilst also being about some bald twat in a metal suit that he uses to punch robots with. People criticised Blomkamp's second film for re-treading the themes of his debut feature whilst also having too many ideas and too little focus. Intellectually, I suppose I agree with this, but like a stoner having waaaay too much food nearby, I couldn't help but enjoy it all on an entirely gut level.

In many ways the issues that people had with Elysium are again true of Chappie, but with this third movie throwing a few more problems in for good measure. If anything, his latest film retreats even further back to District 9 to the point that, structurally and stylistically, they're near on identical. In fact, if you were to re-watch his first film but with rusty bits of metal jammed into your eyes I'm sure you wouldn't even be able to tell the difference. Both films begin with documentary-like vox pops describing the consequences of the film we're about to watch. They also tell the story of a science-fiction being who starts the film as an oppressed innocent that's fucked over by society, before showing its full capability in an explosive third act. In Chappie's case, it's a bit like watching Free Willy but only if that film ended with the Whale escaping its tank by strapping a load of bombs to itself and failing to give a shit. Or, if after seeing the pure-hearted but dim-witted Forrest Gump spend two hours being bullied, that film concluded in the much more realistic way of having him end a three hour shooting spree by popping the gun in his mouth and blowing his fucking brains out.

Oh and in terms of the similarities between Chappie and District 9, there's obviously the obvious stuff such as the gritty camera-work being used to show South African poverty, humanity's selfishness, and the shady dealings of weapons manufacturers. As a disillusioned member of our over-evolved monkey species, I can't help but agree with Blomkamps overall vibe that humanity is an irrational and destructive shit stain on the crust of planet Earth. In many ways it seems that Chappie's innocence exists within the story as a way of simply showing how horrible we are by contrast. Though on top of re-treading all of these previous themes, the film also deals with the idea of sentience, what it means to be both artificial and conscious, and whether or not our mind and our body are two separate things when it comes to our identity. Does Chappie manage to balance all of these various ideas in a successful and competent way? Does it bollocks! Instead it essentially just throws so much shit at the wall that the wall has simply become the supporting structure to what superstitious locals might worship as “The Mountain Of Poo”.

Does this mean that Chappie is a bad film? Probably. It's certainly not a great one anyway. However, did I dislike it? No. In fact, as with Elysium, I couldn't help but enjoy it despite its obvious problems. In a world of Transformers, can I really hate a film that's biggest issue is that it has too many ideas? Chappie is a bit like Stephen Hawking in that its brain is in the right place, it's just that its structure leaves a lot to be desired. Rather than dealing with these issues in a thorough and logical way, the narrative is pretty much all over the place as though it's trying to balance a hundred spinning plates whilst on roller-skates and suffering from cerebral palsy. But I'd be absolutely lying if I said that I hadn't found the movie to be really entertaining. Blomkamp is at a point now in which he runs the risk of being justifiably labeled a one trick pony, but like Sticky Vicky and the projectiles loaded into her vagina, it's a trick that I'm not yet tired of seeing. It's brimming with thoughts, features amazing special effects, and has some fun, skilfully constructed action scenes. Due to him having been adopted by his gangster kidnappers, Chappie has been taught the local lingo and blinged up to look like a twat. There's no doubting that Transformers was lacking in most departments but I can't help but think it would have been slightly improved had Optimus Prime been wearing some garish jewellery whilst throwing Ninja Stars at peoples faces and screaming “EYYYY, WHAT'S UP FUCKMOTHERS”.

Speaking of Chappie's adopted gangster parents, I feel it may as well be time to talk about the rappers that played them. Collectively known as Die Antwoord, Ninja and Yolandi Visser may be two of the most annoying fucking people I've seen this side of The Jeremy Kyle Show. It also seems as though almost every problem with the film can be pinned on them and the decision to focus on them. I mean, this is a film that features both Wolverine and Ellen Ripley, and yet for some reason we spend the bulk of the running time with a couple of cocks that look like they've been kicked head first through a charity shop at the Thunderdome. As characters, nothing they do makes sense.. Why do they let Dev Patel visit them and his stolen robot whenever he pleases? Do they not think that he might retaliate at some point? Why does Ninja leave Chappie in the middle of nowhere despite still needing him to commit robberies? Did it not occur to him that the machine might not make it back in one piece? Some people can't see a wall without feeling the urge to spray paint a massive dick onto it and so what do you think is going to happen to an unarmed and lonely robot? I mean, moments like this are definitely plot-holes, with the films only saving grace being that I imagine those characters are that fucking stupid that they'd do those things. And of course it's true that your lead characters don't have to be likeable, smart or relatable. But from an audience's point of view, it might have been a good idea to at least make them slightly more interesting than the freckle formations on an old man's scrotum.

Of course, you could argue that this is still Blomkamp's fault for writing two shitty characters, but there's a catch. According to behind the scenes sources, Die Antwoord were pure bell-ends to be around. It's alleged that Ninja harassed female crew members, sent around pictures of his rotten cock getting sucked, and he even dared to tell other actors how to do their job. I mean, if the fucker was any good at acting, that'd still be offensive, but his range seems significantly limited to being somewhere between being a grade-A tosser and a mentally deficient knob-womble. It's also said that things got so bad on set that whilst waiting for Jackman to arrive in the country for his scenes that the director decided to use the time to re-write the script. Anonymous sources have described Ninja as being “pure evil”, and apparently Blomkamp decided that he didn't want him back on set. As a result, the wailing, scrawny, pissflap found some of his scenes deleted due to his inability to refrain from being a massive, slimy bell-end. So if we accept that the two biggest problems of this movie are both it's focus on Die Antwoord and a sporadic narrative then perhaps we can give Blomkamp the benefit of the doubt. It's not his fault that Ninja turned out to be the human equivalent of a bucket of puss and shite.. and perhaps those scenes that he was forced to re-write are the reason for the films wonky structure. Obviously this is all speculation.. but if you see a picture of what Ninja looks like then I can guarantee that your politest snap judgement would be that he looks like a fucking twatty little dick spurt.

But, after all the swearing, I'd just like to reiterate that I did like this film. I agree that it has more problems than a single mum with a crack habit, but I also think that its pros outweigh its cons. Sure, Blomkamp is skidding dangerously close to over repeating himself, but I handed a re-written version of the same essay in for about five different assignments during my degree. Turns out that you can't actually be done for plagiarizing your own work and there's no doubt that Blomkamp is a distinctive voice in an over-crowded market of sell-outs, hacks, and talentless gimps. Maybe it's unfair of me to suggest that Ninja is responsible for the film's problems when all I have is anonymous sources and allegations. But you know, his name is Ninja.. if that doesn't scream “I'm a prick”, then nothing does. You might watch this film, hate it, and that's probably fair enough. I wouldn't argue. But with its big ideas, over-arching themes of existentialism, and its shit-talking robot, I think that Chappie is a bit like bungee jumping, marmite, or heroin. It might not be for everyone but that's not to say you shouldn't give it a try yourself. Thanks for reading motherfuckers, and see you next time.

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