‘Chappie’ A Flop? What Critics Could Not Compute About Sci-Fi Thriller

Chappie looked promising enough. It came to audiences by way of Neill Blomkamp, the director behind Elysium and District 9. And yet the sci-fi thriller limped into box offices this weekend, expected to make about $13.5 million. Compared to his previous efforts, Chappie has fallen far behind expectations.

What went wrong for Chappie? It seems that many feel the movie about a human-like robot was something of a “bait and switch.” Instead of a heroic robot saving humanity from an evil corporation (as was the impression in the trailer), Chappie turned out to be a much different movie.

Will Leitch of Deadspin considers Chappie to be comparable to ’80s movie Short Circuit. Just not as intelligent.

“The problem is that for all his visual aptitude, [Blomkamp is not] the most intellectual writer and director. His playground here is the same grubby Johannesburg of District 9, but now he’s unable to populate it with anything other than the most clichéd, grotesque gaggle of dipsh***. And of all the directors to try to do something with the concept of artificial intelligence!

“Chappie’s idea of AI is to make robots into cute little babies, silly innocents who talk like children and keep calling for Mommy and Daddy. I don’t know exactly what will happen in the real world when robots eventually grow sentient and enslave us all, but I’m fairly certain it won’t involve them shrieking, ‘Chappie wants to go home! Chappie no like this!’ It’s like if Johnny Number Five got hit in the head with something heavy.”

Aside from an apparent inability to do something fresh with his futuristic Johannesburg, South Africa world, others blame the failure of the movie to connect with the presence of Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er of Die Antwoord.

“And, of course, their characters wear band merchandise and only play their own music, making their presence an elaborate form of product placement. It could be argued that Chappie is little more than a 120-minute Die Antwoord music video, had it been directed by Michael Bay.”

But not everyone is down on Chappie. Leonard Maltin called Chappie “a technical marvel and a hard-driving, highly emotional film.” Maltin only felt that it was a shame that Neill Blomkamp “couldn’t keep the movie on track” until the end. He also made the observation that Chappie had a lot to live up to based on Neill’s previous efforts.

“[Chappie’s] greatest achievement is the verisimilitude of its visuals: as in District 9, you believe the title character is absolutely real as he interacts with his human costars.

[Despite] echoes of District 9 and even older films like Short Circuit, Chappie is an impressive piece of work—until Blomkamp goes off the rails in a climax that doesn’t make much sense.”

Everyone seems to agree that the character Chappie is the heart of the movie. It seems that critics and audiences are less than impressed with the execution of the film.

What did you think of Chappie? Are critics wrong about this sci-fi movie?

[Image Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment]