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Study Break: ‘Chappie’

Erin Vierra

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Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures

What makes us human? Is it the temporary body that we are given, or is it what’s on the inside, our soul, that makes us who we are?

This, along with other questions, is at the heart of what “Chappie” is all about.

It has been six years since Neill Blomkamp came out with his groundbreaking directorial debut with his film “District 9,” and since then fans have been craving something similar from him.

With “Elysium” as a failure, fans were looking at his latest film, which premiered this past weekend. The film, “Chappie,” has seen some mixed reviews since debuting, with most blaming the poorly written script, but there is charm in the film that is worth viewing.

The setting is South Africa, where crime has lowered due to a new mechanical force program created by artificial intelligence engineer Deon (Dev Patel). His dream is to create a self-reliant machine that both thinks and feels like a human.

This doesn’t sit well with Vincent (Hugh Jackman), an ex-soldier turned engineer who feels like the man made troops are there to serve, not to think. He’s got other plans on his mind, which causes destruction toward the end of the film.

There is also a sub plot involving a gang of thugs led by Ninja (Ninja) and Yolandi (Yo-Landi Visser), who need to settle a score with another misunderstood thug. An easy distraction that could have been written out if not for the effect they have on Chappie (Sharlto Copley).

The film relies on the familiar debate of nature versus nurture. Is your behavior more influenced by genetics or environmental influences?

As the film progresses, it becomes clear that in Chappie’s case, it is the latter.

Each character plays an important role in shaping who Chappie is.

For Deon, Chappie is a life changing invention and this teaches Chappie to be morally good. Yolandi sees Chappie as a child she never had and nurtures him to be different.

For Ninja, Chappie is a way to settle a score, and this prepares him to survive. And for Vincent, he represents the thing that he hates the most, and punishes him.

The audience watches Chappie grow from a toddler to a child looking at life’s wonder to finally gripping with the mortality that humans alike face. He is tortured, neglected and exploited. At times, this is heartbreaking to watch, but that is because of the actor behind the robot.

Here is where the film shines. Blomkamp picked a fine choice in Sharlto Copley, a familiar face in Blomkamp’s films. Copley’s vocal work is a performance nearly perfect. His Chappie is sharp, edgy and quiet at the same time, whether he is reading a book or mimicking gangster slang. Chappie steals every scene.

There are some continuation flaws in the film, some of the acting is a bit stale and there are some heartbreaking scenes of child abuse that make the film less solid than it could have been. Despite these flaws though, the film still manages to work.

Erin Vierra can be reached at [email protected] or @gingersmurf85 on Twitter.

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Study Break: ‘Chappie’