“Chappie” is the latest film from director Neil Blomkamp, the man behind “District 9” and the underappreciated “Elysium.” Here, he once again delves into his forte of sci-fi, but this latest effort is both cheesy and underwhelming. Like many faulty machines, this one is a bucket of bolts.
It stars Hugh Jackman as a former soldier turned engineer who is developing a massive form of artificial intelligence in crime-ridden Johannesburg, South Africa. Robots are used as a kind of police force. Dev Patel from “Slumdog Millionaire” costars as a fellow employee who creates a new kind of software and places it into a damaged robot in the hopes that it will be able to mimic human behavior.
Once the robot comes alive, he’s named Chappie and begins learning and thinking all on his own. Think of the character as a cross between E.T. and Robocop.
It isn’t long before a band of criminals discover Chappie and decide to use him for their own personal gain. This provides some funny moments in which the robot thinks he’s a gangster and he’s provided with a series of makeshift tattoos and plenty of bling-bling.
The concept of a robot coming to life and having emotions and ideas isn’t exactly original or profound. Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick did it to tremendous heights with “2001” and even “The Matrix” and “Terminator” films did it with intriguing elements, but this movie runs out of gas.
Instead of supplying any kind of stimulation, it’s doomed to follow a repetitive formula. There are a lot of scenes featuring the robot getting in and out of trouble and, at one point, it’s mistaken for a criminal, which is not original either.
The movie starts out well with some interesting ideas, but then loses itself about halfway through and starts to choose conventionality the rest of the way. “Chappie” is a film that feels more like a technical exercise than a fully-developed and explored extravaganza.
(Rated R for violence, language, and brief nudity.)
Hall is a Southeast Georgia-based syndicated columnist.