In a recent interview with UPROXX, Neill Blomkamp admitted that his second outing “wasn’t quite there.” Although Elysium was cool to look at, had some great action scenes, and was centered around an interesting core idea, many believe the film was not as engrossing or as well-rounded as his directorial debut, District 9. So has Blomkamp learned from his mistakes with Chappie, or is he merely a one hit wonder who managed to fluke a home run his first time around? Unfortunately the answer to that question is not so cut and dried.
Chappie very much feels like a Blomkamp film; it is a gritty near-future dystopia with cool gadgets and questionable characters. The titular Chappie is played by Blomkamp’s go-to guy, Sharlto Copley, and is a naïve AI robot who absorbs the culture he finds himself in, like an impressionable baby with super strength. Earlier on than the trailer may have you believe, he falls in with some unsavory characters, and picks up some bad habits…if that makes you think of a dark Short Circuit 2, you aren’t too far off.
The supporting cast is mostly great, but not really given that much to play with. Dev Petel is the geeky genius, Hugh Jackman is the staple psychopath, and Sigourney Weaver is predictably awesome but underused. Much like the talented cast, the action scenes are spectacular but are given the limelight far less often than you would like. Not only that, the narrative can seem a little silly at times, and the jumps in technology that are necessary to drive the plot seem far too advanced for a film with PS4 product placements.
I personally prefer Elysium, as for all its flaws it kept me engaged, whilst Chappie did have me wishing for a fast-forward button at certain points. Blomkamp remains an interesting director with a very distinct artistic style, but if you are already sick of him, this will be little else than a nail in the proverbial coffin.