Chappie review – near-future fantasy falls between two stools

Neill Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi romp about a police droid reprogrammed to emote and think fails to convince

District 9 director Neill Blomkamp’s South African mash-up of Robocop and Short Circuit (expanded from his 2003 short Tetra Vaal) is a near-future fantasy that falls awkwardly between two stools; too sweary and violent for younger viewers who’d love its infant-robot charms, too cute for older viewers more interested in the head-bangingly orchestrated guns and ’splosions. Upgraded to Turing test levels of consciousness by cyborg-cop designer Deon (Dev Patel), the titular droid is kidnapped by Mad Max-style outlaws (real-life rappers Ninja and Yolandi Visser) who become its surrogate family. Schooled in gangster culture, Chappie remains an innocent at heart, comically mangling his expletives (“Fucka-mutha!”) while helping out on heists between bouts of pathos-laden bedtime stories.

Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley thankfully keeps our motion-captured hero more C-3PO than Jar Jar Binks, but the surrounding drama remains too tonally conflicted to engage our sympathies. Star-names Sigourney Weaver and a terrifyingly mulleted Hugh Jackman are somewhat sidelined as Deon’s cynically self-serving business associates.


Mark Kermode, Observer film critic

The GuardianTramp

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