Chappie (2015) Review

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Chappie (aka CHAPPiE) (2015)

Directed by Neill Blomkamp

Based on Tetra Vaal by Neill Blomkamp

Starring:
Sharlto Copley
Dev Patel
Watkin Tudor Jones & Yolandi Visser (aka Die Antwoord)
Jose Pablo Cantillo
Sigourney Weaver
Hugh Jackman

Running time: 120 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.

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My Opinion:

I’m not sure if anyone has noticed but I’ve been on a real A.I. movie kick the past few months. This is a favorite topic of mine in films so, despite some very negative reviews, I still wanted to see Chappie as I’ve been looking forward to it for ages. I really liked Blomkamp’s District 9 but missed out on Elysium (and still haven’t watched it as we all know how well received that one was). I’ve not yet fully read any reviews of Chappie (other than a good one from Writer Loves Movies defending it HERE) but I’ve read just enough to get the general idea: most people hate Chappie almost as much as Elysium while a small minority are defending it. Well, I guess I’m in the minority. I really enjoyed Chappie and think it deserves more credit than it appears to be getting.

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Remember that this is a favorite topic of mine within my favorite genre so I’m going to automatically like it more than some will. Plus, the last A.I. movie I saw was the disappointing Aut贸mata. Chappie is a heck of a lot better than that one but certainly isn’t as good as Ex Machina, my favorite film of the year so far, or even Daft Punk’s Electroma (which is awesome. seriously. no one read that review – that movie should be more well known!). Yes, Chappie is basically Short Circuit except that Ally Sheedy & Steve Guttenberg weren’t South African rappers calling everyone “motherfuckers” all the time. Actually, that would’ve been hilarious. Who’s Johnny, motherfuckers?! (Sorry, Mike – I had to make the Short Circuit comparison as everyone is. At least I didn’t mention D.A.R.Y.L. or… Hardware). 馃槈

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I found Chappie interesting in that it actually explores the morality issues involved in creating self-aware artificial intelligence in a slightly different way than other similar films. Okay – this topic has been explored so much now that it’s very hard to be truly unique but even Ex Machina is guilty of not really bringing anything “new” to the table in the A.I. debate. Chappie treats Chappie (the robot) as a child who needs to be nurtured just as a human child would be. There’s talk of consciousness and “souls” (and violence & how to deal with crime, etc, making this not only like Short Circuit but also RoboCop). Overall, there’s probably a bit too much going on as far as all the various morality issues involved in creating advanced crime-fighting A.I. that whatever Blomkamp’s overall point actually is gets lost. The bits with the film’s two biggest stars, Sigourney Weaver & Hugh Jackman, are the weakest parts and I think more focus on the “Chappie as child in its formative years” thing would have been better. These are the most “human” parts of the film and are oddly touching. Chappie (again, the robot) is done very well – he looks great & his character is very well developed to the point that you DO feel for him. He’s no WALL-E but he comes closer to achieving that than I expected (I adore WALL-E). He’s as likeable as Short Circuit‘s Johnny 5 but with much more personality (and swearing). The most important thing to get right, in my opinion, is the character of Chappie himself & I think the film did a very good job there.

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I think the thing that may turn some off this film is the use of South African rap duo Die Antwoord (Watkin Tudor Jones & Yolandi Visser). I’ve known of them somewhat over the years through a couple of their songs & fucked-up videos and find them intriguing. When I heard they’d be in this film, I assumed it would be in smaller roles but they’re really the main stars. If you don’t take to their characters, you probably won’t like the film. Funny thing is, they end up being the best things about it (after Chappie, of course). These two crazy, swearing, “cartoonish” looking criminals end up feeling just as much if not more “human” than Dev Patel as Chappie’s “Maker”, while the film’s big stars (Weaver & Jackman) end up feeling like the cartoon characters. Or maybe that’s the point? I don’t think so… I think Weaver’s & Jackman’s roles are just very poorly written. It’s a shame, really, as it detracts from the more interesting central theme of A.I. consciousness & nurturing its development.

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Summary:

I thought Chappie was a solid sci-fi film and managed to explore the usual A.I. themes we’ve seen in countless other movies in a somewhat unique & quite entertaining way. It’s a weird kind of mish-mash of the heartwarming aspects of Short Circuit & WALL-E with the ultra-violent cartoonish-ness of RoboCop. This may be putting some people off, however, as the film seems a little confused as to what it wants to be. Sigourney Weaver’s & Hugh Jackman’s poorly written “baddies” aside, I enjoyed the over-the-top violent action film aspects but especially liked the more “human” aspects of watching Chappie become self-aware & start to develop his own personality. I know Chappie won’t work for everyone but it worked for me.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Gotta say this may be my favorite tattoo on Watkin Tudor Jones (aka Ninja) 馃槈

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Aut贸mata (2014) Review

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Aut贸mata (2014) Review

Directed by Gabe Ib谩帽ez

Starring:
Antonio Banderas
Birgitte Hjort S酶rensen
Dylan McDermott
Robert Forster
Tim McInnerny
Melanie Griffith

Running time: 110 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Jacq Vaucan is an insurance agent of ROC robotics corporation who investigates cases of robots violating their primary protocols against altering themselves. What he discovers will have profound consequences for the future of humanity.

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My Opinion:

So I’m on a bit of an “artificial intelligence” movie kick lately having just watched Ex Machina & Electroma. Like I said in those reviews, sci-fi is my favorite genre & I’m fascinated by artificial intelligence and the singularity occurring and Skynet killing us all and blah blah blah. So, anyway, as it’s a concept that appeals to me I really wanted to see Aut贸mata despite negative reviews. It certainly has its flaws but it’s not the worst sci-fi movie I’ve ever seen. It’s worth a watch if you’re a fan of the genre.

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First of all, I’ll say you need to go into this one expecting a B movie. I suppose that’ll make some of you instantly uninterested but, well, it’s not something that bothers me as long as there’s something I appreciate about the film. I apologize to my regulars who already know of my love for Hardware but I have to mention it here (as both are low budget sci-fi & especially as Dylan McDermott is in both films – it was so weird seeing him in Aut贸mata!). No, Aut贸mata is no Hardware (Hardware is much better) but it’ll get the same level of people loving it or hating it, I think. Hardware was made on a very low budget (and it’s obvious) but it has such a great feel & characters & simple but fun story. Aut贸mata is also low budget but it looks much prettier while the acting & script feel low budget. Antonio Banderas is fine but the rest of the acting is a little dodgy. I think it also tries too hard to be intelligent but doesn’t ever get very deep so ends up feeling a little pointless. Hardware says “fuck it” and just entertains you with a killer robot, which makes it a far more enjoyable movie than Aut贸mata.

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So what did I like about Aut贸mata? The story was a bit of a mess & the acting was iffy but I still liked the concept of “robots violating their primary protocols against altering themselves”. Also, the look of the robots was quite effective for the budget & the filmmakers managed to create a decent looking dystopian world. And… You know what? It’s late & I really want to watch Game Of Thrones. Only four more episodes & then I’ll be all caught up so I can watch the new ones when they start! Woohoo! So, anyway, I liked Aut贸mata okay but it’s a genre I really go for so I’m likely to enjoy it more than some would. It’s NOT a “good” film but, hey – at least they tried! I’ve seen better & I’ve seen far worse. Maybe give it a watch if you love sci-fi (but first watch Ex Machina, Electroma & HARDWARE). 馃槈

My Rating: 6/10

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Ex Machina (2015) Review

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Ex Machina (2015)

Directed by Alex Garland

Starring:
Domhnall Gleeson
Oscar Isaac
Alicia Vikander

Running time: 108 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.

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My Opinion:

Ex Machina was one of my most anticipated movies for this year. Sci-fi is my favorite genre and Ex Machina certainly didn’t disappoint in that department. It even makes up for the inferior Interstellar, which I found to be a pretty big disappointment. Ex Machina doesn’t really give us anything new as far as the exploration of artificial intelligence or “the singularity” but it’s a topic I’ve always found fascinating (such as in the obscure Electroma, which I reviewed HERE) and I think it does a decent job with a popular sci-fi concept.

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First of all, I have to mention that it was good to be able to see Domhnall Gleeson & Oscar Isaac together in a movie before we see them again in Star Wars The Force Awakens & it’s probably helping Ex Machina to get more attention than it otherwise would, which I see as a good thing. This is Alex Garland’s first time directing after being a writer & I was excited to see how he’d do as I’ve really enjoyed his movies. He wrote The Beach novel, 28 Days Later & Sunshine plus the scripts for Never Let Me Go & Dredd. Okay, I’ve not seen Dredd but people really seem to like it so I’m eager to finally see that one now as well. Apparently, based on Ex Machina, there’s now talk of him directing Star Wars IX. I’m happy to see someone who seems very talented getting some recognition.

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I thought Gleeson was very good in this and the right choice for his role. Isaac was good but it kind of felt like a role that could have been played by most anyone & I thought he paled in comparison to Gleeson & Alicia Vikander. Vikander as the female A.I. was probably the best thing about Ex Machina but may not get as much attention as the male leads, which would be a shame. She is, of course, lovely & her sad brown eyes alone displayed so much emotion (or DID they?). Yeah, she’s gorgeous… I hate her a little.

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As I said above, the story itself doesn’t really do anything “new”. We’ve seen the dangers & morality issues associated with artificial intelligence explored in a wide variety of sci-fi movies such as Blade Runner, The Terminator, Westworld, etc. Oh, and of course D.A.R.Y.L. & Short Circuit… (had to get those in here!). I loved the look & feel of Ex Machina but can’t say the story is totally original. It doesn’t really delve as deep into the moral issues as I was hoping it would but it’s still far from “shallow”. I really liked that it didn’t feel the need to throw in a bunch of technobabble, however, which made it feel far less phoney than Interstellar as that tried too hard to impress. Garland tells this story in a pretty straightforward way & does leave you with something to think about once the film ends. It also looks quite beautiful (its style reminded me of Oblivion) and Alicia Vikander as A.I. Ava looked amazing. It wasn’t a case of style over substance, however – I just wish they’d had a little more to say about the moral issues involved in creating advanced artificial intelligence. I liked Ex Machina a lot & think it’s a worthy addition to the sci-fi genre.

My Rating: 8/10

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