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Laramie Movie Scope: Chappie

Robots, artificial intelligence and transcending the skin

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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March 1, 2015 -- I went to see this, despite the fact that it got so-so reviews from other critics (rating of 45/100 on MRQE.com) and found I liked this film better than they did. I am more in line with the IMDB rating, which is the equivalent of 74/100 or the typical audience ratings for this film which are positive.

The story takes place in South Africa, like writer-director Neill Blomkamp's earlier film “District 9.” It shares a lot of the “big idea” themes of that earlier film too, like what is the soul? What is the human heart? What makes us human? -- and so on. The story is about a robot, Chappie, who can think for himself. He grows up in a very tough environment surrounded by criminals who want to use his powers for their own evil ends, but he is basically a good soul.

Actually, some of the criminals who are teaching Chappie to be more human are mostly pretty good people themselves. Chappie's creator, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) is absent from some important parts of the film, but re-emerges later on. The people who are with Chappie for a lot of the time are a band of bungling small-time crooks, Ninja (played by Watkin Tudor Jones, AKA Ninja) Yolandi (Yo-Landi Visser) and Yankie (Jose Pablo Cantillo). Yankie and Yolandi both like Chappie. Yolandi becomes like a mother to the childlike robot.

The crooks owe a lot of money to another crook, Hippo (Brandon Auret) who is threatens to kill them if they don't pay up. They trick the naive robot into helping them steal the money they need to pay their debt. Although they successfully raise the money, Hippo wants the robot as well as the money. There is a standoff. In the middle of this, another character gets in the middle of the fight, Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman of “X-Men: Days of Future Past”).

Moore has designed a large battle robot called MOOSE that is remote controlled by humans, but he can't get the police interested in buying it. The police are happy with Deon Wilson's cheaper, smaller, autonomous police robots. Moore figures out how to eliminate the competition, but he needs to kill Wilson and destroy Chappie to carry out his plan. This turns into a battle royal as MOOSE, Chappie and the gangsters are all fighting each other for survival.

Moore and Hippo are the real bad guys in this film. Even the hard core crook Ninja turns out to be a hero when the bad guys go after Yolandi, Yankie, Chappie and himself. He proves capable of great bravery and self-sacrifice when the chips are down. Both Wilson and Yolandi adopt Chappie as their own mechanical child, and Chappie is devoted to them as well.

I liked the actors and characters in this film. While some are simple, others are more complex and they evolve over the course of the film. The plot has holes in it, but I was willing to overlook them because the characters are worth following. There are also some positive humanistic values in the film. To paraphrase James Cameron: If a robot can learn the value of a human life, then maybe humans can learn that, too. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2015 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)