MOVIE REVIEW: Chappie not Die Antwoord

02_Chappie Gun PosterStarring: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser
Directed By: Neill Blomkamp
Vuvuzela Rating: 7/10

CHAPPIE is a sci-fi action set in the near future in Johannesburg where the police have been successfully replaced by mechanised robots. Directed by Neill Blomkamp, Chappie includes an A-list cast of Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver, as well as rap-rave duo Die Antwoord, Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er, who add to the film’s Jozi cred, though their acting ‘talents’ leave a lot to be desired.
The film makes extensive use of robotics and plenty of South African stereotypes to show that a robot is, in the words of Yo-Landi, “more than just a machine!”
One of these robots, Chappie (voiced by South African Sharlto Copley), ends up in the hands of gangsters Ninja (Watkin Tudor Jones), Yo-Landi ( Yolandi Visser) and Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo). He is reprogrammed and given the ability to feel, think and even paint by himself. Chappie’s humanisation is resisted by those who believe robots should remain machines and so the plot unfolds.
Unlike Blomkamp’s previous sci-fi movie, District 9, Chappie is not as successful in creating a sympathetic audience after showing a sulky and morally conflicted wannabe gangster robot who believes that stabbing someone puts them to sleep.

“The special effects are convincing and live up to the high standards of a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster.”
Jackman, who plays weapon designer Vincent Moore, is generally dull and Weaver, who plays robot-building boss Michelle Bradley, is underused throughout the movie. Dev Patel, of Slumdog Millionaire fame, holds his own in his role as Chappie’s creator Deon Wilson. However the duo of Die Antwoord don’t seem to be “the answer”, with their below par acting skills and their presence coming off as a platform to promote their music, with snippets of their songs and branded clothing.

The plot seems flimsy at times, with Deon (Patel) finding inspiration from a cat poster on the wall of his cubicle. Many issues raised in the film go largely unexplored such as the moral values of artificial intelligence versus those of human beings. Unfortunately the movies’ tagline, “Humanity’s Last Hope Isn’t Human”, is misleading as Chappie is more about questioning what it is to be human rather than saving any humans.

The film draws on stock-types in its portrayals of Hippo who is a drug and arms dealer, played by South African actor Brandon Auret, in dreads, a dark tan and using a strange African accent.
The protagonist, Chappie, is another such case after he spontaneously develops an unexplained Cape Flats accent despite never coming into contact with anyone of that region.
However, the special effects are convincing and live up to the high standards of a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster.
The film is a slow starter that gains momentum with an explosive finale which leaves the audience wondering if there will be a sequel. It is an appealing film to watch, even if it is just to see how Blomkamp attempts to juggle Die Antwoord’s counter-culture with sci-fi robots in a South African context. At the very least there’s nothing like supporting South African filmmakers by watching a familiar skyline and seeing local talent on the big screen.
The film is much like its namesake, Chappies chewing gum. It is intriguing with its attention-grabbing wrapper and bright colours but eventually the flavour quickly wears off leaving the audience with a bland taste in their mouths.


Back to the City

15 000 hip-hop lovers streamed onto the streets of Newtown to attend the annual Back to the City festival on Freedom Day.  Surprise guests Die Antwoord took to the stage in the evening to an enthusiastic crowd.  Popular artists such as Khuli Chana, AKA and Tuks rocked one of the stages.

More live music, skateboarding, film, break dancing, street fashion and gaming were all on offer. Graffiti artists spray painted the numerous pillars in the festival.

“Last year [the festival] was amazing so I was really looking forward to it this year,” said attendee Mesuli Splash.  Splash said his favourite feature of the festival was the rappers. “I loved it when the DJ divided the crowd into East side and West side, u know, the 2pac side and the Biggie side.”

“It was nice but I did expect a little more this year since the turnout last year was so great.”




Photos: Lisa Golden and Zandi Shabalala