Neill Blomkamp – it’s ok for us to die someday … you will, I will … Chappie … well …
Let’s just say that even if Chappie does achieve immortality in the film (not saying he does), he won’t achieve it in the Hollywood sense (i.e., no reincarnation in the form of a sequel.)
Neill Blomkamp stumbles mightily as the director’s reach finally exceeds his grasp with his latest project, Chappie.
With this topic, Blomkamp is both directly and subconsciously drawing our attention to its spiritual predecessors, AI (2001), Robocop (both the original and reboot), and then, at a stretch, masterpieces like 2001:A Space Odyssey, and the modern classic, Her (2013).
This film acts as a perfect foil in the end, though, to Her – demonstrating the herculean artistry necessary to wade into these creative waters, and the topic of AI in general, and succeed.
Blomkamp reveals weakness in his directorial style for the first time in this project.
Whereas previous efforts District 9 and Elysium were able to successfully maintain focus on the sci-fi “point” of the project, Blomkamp couldn’t keep pace with equal parts substance and his (admittedly, still interesting) punk/gangster/dadaism via J-J-berg visual style.
This effort is vacuous, though. Like so much (humorously misguided and benign and odd) graffiti covering his fantasy version of future Jo-Berg, there is surely ample color on the palette.
Musically, the culturally eccentric and oddball version of “gangster rap” presented is just meta enough to entertain somebody familiar with the genre. Certainly, though, the extreme vulgarity is a concession that he’s taking the low road. No “cool” trance or electronic music here …
I think we’ve seen Blomkamp’s gimmick now … and it’s not so much that it’s “tired” (it’s still unique enough to pass muster with your target demographic). The eclectic and and hyper-realistic version of JBerg is still interesting; although anyone who has spent time there knows it’s just that (he’s not really showing you the city … hasn’t dared to step beyond certain taboo’s yet. Still content to portray white SA males in mullet’s (thank you Hugh Jackman) as easy, one dimensional bad guys.
Expectations rise, though … and I was expecting the meat of the effort (an examination of the core sci-fi and soon to be real life social-reality concepts) to take the stage sooner rather than later.
All of the key categories that needed ticked off, though, to leave a sci-fi philosopher with some sense of satisfaction, were left blank – quickly passed over; almost disturbingly so (what happened?).
Chappie’s AI evolution proceeds only to the point that he begins to mimic his “philistine” role models; the difficult part (actually writing and projecting into the future – hypothesizing what the next step in this evolution will look like, think like and feel like) was ignored.
Right at the key juncture, when we expect to see what Blomkamp will come up with in hypothesizing what an intelligence that is “beyond human” will look like, he balks. Chappie is shown briefly exceeding the efforts of his creator, but it happens so quickly that you hardly notice – and no focus occurs.
More daring and courageous “tries” at delving into the near future can be seen in films like Her; in terms of the “investigation of consciousness and immortality” genre, superior efforts come to mind even in something like Avatar.
Chappie reaches the point where he seems to have fulfilled his creator’s philosophical and creative ideal; he surpasses his creator and tries his hand at achieving the arc of the sci-fi covenant (digitizing, creating quantum consciousness). And when we see the results … well … they’re just “results”.
Are these characters really worth even beginning to consider immortalizing? No – they’re really disgusting, one dimensional thugs (what’s a cholo doing in SA anyhow?).
This was another problem with the film … not a single character generated even the slightest sympathy. From Chappie himself, to his parents/family and his “father” … there’s not a single keeper in the bunch; not a single meaningful personality. Certainly not a personality worthy of immortalization, or a cool … indestructible titanium body (maybe I’m jelly?).
Chappie’s mother and father are repulsive human beings.
Regardless, nothing further on the meat of the topic is discussed. There’s no investigation of the important topics. Instead, the writing bends around and focuses entirely on the motivations and tasks of the hyper-exaggerated “white trash turned heroes” narcotics fiends. A character study of these comic buffoons? That’s not what I paid for.
We’re left with some bizarre and unholy attempt at mashing up Robocop and Short Circuit.
As with his other efforts, the movie is visually beautiful … it looked like that went over well with the younger audience. It moved quickly and the action was crisp and cool. That’s not the point, though – achieving those things is easy.
Harsh criticism comes at the lack of even trying to address the important questions (they didn’t really even pursue the sub-narrative of social-alienation); a low IMDB score, a very low meta-critic and rotten tomatoes score has ensued.
The ending is hysterical and bizarre (also full of problems).
Finally … what is the fascination with immortality? Why do we as Westerner’s so profoundly fear the sweet release of death; why do we cling so desperately to any prospect of ensuring our precious little personalities for eternity? That ended up being the moral and motivation of the director…
I, for one, DON’T want to live forever – certainly not uploaded onto the internet … blogging without a body; Michael 2.0
No thanks – I’m ok with letting go of myself when it’s time; I’m ok with dying … I wish Chappie, with his immense intelligence (he uploaded the history of human knowledge in a couple of minutes without overheating his server) could have come to the same conclusion.
*Drags on imaginary cigarette, pages through French magazine …*
C’est la Vie.