CHAPPiE (Neill Blomkamp, 2015)
So the afternoon was skating on ice — the gallery I was going to go to is now only open Thursday-Monday, but that gave me longer to write stuff in the coffee shop. And when I got to the cinema, they said that they might not show the film, because I was the only person to show. But two people turned up for Insurance (which I may well see sooner or later, but I would have hated today) and apparently that was enough — in fact a second person wanted to see CHAPPiE. But in twenty-five plus years of solo cinema-going I’ve never experienced that. I guess they in theory make a loss, but it hardly encourages me to return. I’d hoped to see it in Westgate on Sea, but that was last week.
So Blomkamp teases us — we have the after-the-event documentary and then we have the eighteen months earlier news footage and then, clearly, he can’t be arsed as we go into standard continuity editing. There’s this RoboCop rip-off police system of robot cops remote controlled by head sets which seems to be bankrolled by the guy who won that Slumdog Millionaire (Dev Patel) competition. Wolverine, meanwhile, has an even bigger badder robot that he’s trying to interest Ripley in.
Meanwhile, in another part of Joburg, Yolandi (Yolandi Visser), Ninja (Ninja), Amerika (Amerika) and Hoodie Guy (Hoodie Guy) have pulled off a drug deal only to be caught by Evil Subtitled Guy (Brandon Auret) who shoots one of them and demands 20,000,000 Rand within seven days. Ninja decides that he will kidnap the guy from Skins to access a RoboCop to… do something or other. Skins chappie, meanwhile, has stolen a RoboCop and has developed artificial intelligence when he clearly doesn’t have any of his own.
RoboCop is the spitting image of Sharlto Copley from District 9, or would be if they hadn’t done all that MoFocking MoCapping. It’s pretty, I grant you, but you too easily forget it’s a RoboCop and it seems to have rather too much servo motion. It needed to be more robotic. Copley gives a great comic performance but Woody Allen was a more convincing robot in Sleeper (Woody Allen, 1973). Then you mix in Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982), because RoboCop has a broken battery — although it’s five days rather than four years. Skins chappie is a younger and more handsome Tyrell, and you keep waiting for the burning so very bright speech. Frankenstein, too, as he’s a bad father and RoboCop gets bullied by some retrobates and some rather unconvincing fire. We have a Meaningful bit when he ponders why his Creator would give a faulty body and you just know that sooner or later he’s going to need a wife, sorry, Bride of RoboCop.
Wolverine’s robot echoes the military suit from District 9, which in turn echoes the suit from Aliens (James Cameron, 1986), or possibly the first one. It’s pretty poor stuff, frankly, which perhaps explains why the South African police force ain’t buying. By now, of course, you have the sense that it’s really an audition piece for Alien This Time It’s Three, in which Copley and Patel are going to play MoCapped aliens as some kind of mismatched buddies. A certain actor presumably was only there for about two days and you have to admire her presence of mind to grab her coat and handbag before exiting in an emergency.
Copley gets to wander around more South African waste grounds and shanty towns and CHAPPiE has a certain amount appeal even if it requires an awful lot of hand waving. Just as Evil Subtitled Guy (random alleged Nigerian) in District 9 wanted Wikus (Copley), so here Evil Subtitled Guy does too. Presumably he’s evil because he’s got knurled at having his perfectly comprehensible dialogue subtitled. There’s a rather better nonwhite acting quotient here — a Black chief of police, Patel of course, Amerika, a television journalist and so forth — but only two females with any significant dialogue. With the exception of Wolverine, I don’t recall anyone getting a backstory.
Maybe I should have gone to see Insurance? Although, of course, it seems to feature Kate Winslet continuing an audition to be Sigourney Weaver.