CHAPPiE, starring Dev Patel and Sharlto Copley


Brought to you by the people who gave us the miraculous District 9, CHAPPiE tells the story of a police robot who gets the ultimate reboot–real consciousness.

We’re back in South Africa at a large weapons factory, CEO’d by Sigourney Weaver, a casting choice I found distracting (much as I found the odd little part played by Matt Damon in Interstellar distracting). Dev Patel plays Deon Wilson, the inventor (“Maker”) of the police robots now patrolling Johannesburg. Crime has dropped precipitately, because the police robots are bad news and don’t ever back off or break down.

Except Scout 22, which is always having bad luck and getting shot by RPGs. Scout 22 is about to be demolished, but is saved at the last moment by Deon who has cracked the hippocampus and made a true AI memory stick. Alas, just as he is going to animate Scout 22, he is abducted by Ninja (played by Ninja) and Yolandi Visser (played by Yolandi Visser, odd, but whatever, the movie is good enough to overlook small naming issues like this. Though how wild would it have been if Sigourney Weaver had played a character named Sigourney Weaver?). (Ninja and Yolandi sing a bunch of the songs too. They are a power couple in South African music and theater, apparently, and I say, welcome to Hollywood.)

When the AI flash drive is put into Chappie, he is no longer a robot, but a learning individual. He never does play with blocks, alas. He’s a cool gangsta robot once he gets his bearings, and that is where everything goes sideways.

Fortunately, Deon has taught Chappie a rudimentary moral code. Most importantly, Chappie learns about love.

Not for children–lots and lots of language, and some startling cave-dwelling-like drawings.

Sharlto Copley, who was amazing as Wickus van der Merwe in District 9, returns as Chappie, in his first motion-capture role. He also voices Chappie, and it’s endearing.

If you haven’t seen District 9, you might want to see CHAPPiE first and then watch District 9 on video, because District 9 is better than CHAPPiE, so it would be like having dessert last. CHAPPiE is, however, very good, and I look forward to seeing it again. Twice is not enough.