STORY: In the future, Johannesburg’s police use an army of armoured droids called Scouts, to combat criminals. Droid creator Deon (Patel) tries out a new AI (Artificial Intelligence) program on a damaged robot, which then develops a human personality.
REVIEW: Deon, who works at a technology company, is a genius. The cubicle he sits in cannot contain his big ideas regarding robotics. Office bully Vincent (Jackman) has his own negative take on the dangers of AI and takes Deon’s case at any opportunity.
When Deon tells his boring boss Michelle (Weaver) that he has discovered the key to AI, she in effect, calls him crazy. Incredulous but undeterred, he steals away a junked Scout along with his AI software but is waylaid by some criminals (Ninja and Yolandi) who want to capture and reprogram a Scout to ‘switch off’ the Scout army. Deon reprograms the robot and that’s when Chappie is born – a baby in a heavy metal body who then cycles through an accelerated adolescence.
This is where the reference to 1987’s Robocop comes in -a breakaway police robot ‘adopted’ by the very people he was built to kill. Chappie calls Deon his ‘Maker’. Ninja and Yolandi are dubbed ‘Daddy’ and ‘Mummy’, respectively. Yolandi completely pampers Chappie like a doting mom, reading him bedtime stories and telling him about life after death and having a soul. Ninja teaches Chappie how to rob posh cars and shoot guns.
There’s a lot going on in Chappie – a somewhat dystopian future where crime is so rampant that droids are required to take down thugs, a slightly deviant tale of what happens when a machine becomes self-aware with its own AI and subtexts regarding parenting.
There’s the surreal touch – Blomkamp using a real-life cyberpunk rap-rave group Die Antwoord, comprising Ninja and Yolandi, whose colourful attire match their cuss words. Chappie’s innocence is strangely endearing. Patel is a natural as the nerd scientist. As a movie, Chappie is slightly bonkers (Jackman in cargo shorts, humans babying a robot, Copley’s voice intonations for his character, etc), but delightfully so.