Last week I caught “Chappie” in one of the cinemas in Aeon Mall here in Phnom Penh. The cinema complex in the mall was nice; reminding me of the cinema complexes in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. There were plenty of snack choices and the toilets were immaculately clean. The audience was a good mix of Khmer–mostly young people, and foreigners like me. The screen was big enough but the seat was uncomfortable because it kept on reclining. I tried another seat but it was the same.
Anyway, “Chappie” is the third feature film of Neill Blomkamp, who first directed the awesome “District 9” and then the slightly un-even “Elysium”. I surmised that this film is the last in a trilogy of films that tackled alienation, other-ness, and segregation.
In “District 9” there were real aliens, but the way the government treated them was not that different from the way some governments treat their migrant populations. And while there were no extra-terrestrials in “Elysium”, the disparity between those who have and those who don’t are spectacularly presented as the affluent few living a life of luxury literally above the rest of the populace who languishes in a wasteland of a world.
Here in “Chappie”, Neill Blomkamp turns inward and attempts a discourse at what makes us human. Although one can argue that this discourse can also be about the impact of big business on our lives, and what happens to us when big decisions are being made by business conglomerates and are purely based on ensuring that profits will be made. At its core, “Chappie” makes a case at how great we can become if we choose to be, and how destructive we can also be if we become cavalier.
Great performances all around, although I missed Blomkamp favorite Sharlto Copely’s face (we only get his voice and motion-capture). Hugh Jackman’s mullet brought me back to the guys I adored in the 80s. Sigourney Weaver’s presence alone added gravitas to the proceedings. I also loved this South African singer-rapper, whom I mistook for Lady Gaga. She was great as Chappie’s mother figure.
Dev Patel as Deon was compelling as the hero of this film. He was the sole lucid presence in this film and he carried it well. By the way, even if I love Neill Blomkamp’s films, I’d never want to be a hero in any of them. Why? Just look at what happened to them: Wikus (District 9) became an alien-hybrid, Max (Elysium) became a human flash drive, and Deon’s consciousness was downloaded into a robot. Neill Blomkamp demands a lot from his heroes, so there. Enough said.
That was another reason why I see connections between the three films. One other similar thread that runs through the films are its open endings. His films almost always starts with a question of “What if?” The movie tries to answer this question in all sorts of bombastic, incredible, and sometimes funny manner and by the end of the film, the question has become “What now?”
“Chappie” is a must-see!
Posted on March 30, 2015, in journal, review and tagged 2015, Aeon Mall, Cambodia, Chappie, District 9, Elysium, humanity, Neill Blomkamp, Phnom Penh, robots, science fiction. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.