Quality: This score indicates entertainment value.
0 stars is horrible, while 5 stars is spectacular.
Political: This score addresses political messaging.
0 stars is aggressively anti-Conservative, while 5 stars is highly pro-Conservative. 3 stars is apolitical.
Moral/Religious (M/R): This score addresses moral and religious messaging.
0 stars is either intensely immoral or all-out, needless assault on Christianity. 5 stars is either great moral messaging or highly pro-Christian. 3 stars is inoffensive either way.
Quality – 2.5 stars, Political – 2 stars, M/R – 1 stars
Overrun by crime, a mildly futuristic Johannesburg turns to robot cops—built by programmer/creator, Deon (played by Dev Patel). Things are going great at first, with crime way down, but Deon has higher ambitions—he wants to create artificial intelligence. Actually designing consciousness to be placed in a robot, Deon must work around his profit-driven boss (Sigourney Weaver in a throwaway role), who has no interest in such frivolities. So, Deon must steal one of his own damaged units.
Alas, on his way home, Deon is taken captive by street thugs demanding he show them how to turn off the cursed robot cops. One thing leads to another. They find the damaged bot in Deon’s van, Deon assembles it, downloads its “consciousness,” and Chappie is born.
Chappie is a robot with the mind of an infant; at one moment inquisitive, the next, terrified. Predictably, when the humans are sleeping, he begins to explore. Hijinks ensue, as Chappie does a low-key impersonation of Star Wars’ blundering misfit, Jar Jar Binks (often confused with Joe Joe Biden). He knocks stuff over. He spills milk. He destroys a long-awaited trilogy (or was that Joe Joe?). It’s like watching a cute animal show where the baby bear falls down a hill, bounces into Daddy Bear who was trying to maul some campers, and knocks Daddy into a campfire. Chuckling, the narrator says, “Whoa! Someone put Dad out! What will this little scamp get into next?”
Thanks to Deon and sensitive female thug Yolandi (Played by rapper Yolandi, who is a real find, by the way), Chappie is a peace-loving robot—imagine Avengers nemesis Ultron in a tie dye shirt. He even calls Yolandi his “Mommy.” But Chappie is also being raised by a wicked Daddy, Ninja (played in over-the-top, Mad Max ruffian style by rapper Ninja).
At first, Chappie displays his “Animal Planet” cuteness, but to toughen him up for committing crimes, Ninja teaches Chappie to don a Gangsta Hip Hop persona. This is fun at first, with the nose-brushing mannerisms and awkward profanity, but it becomes tiring. Remember “Data” from Star Trek fame? Data’s forays into human character stayed amusing because he’d always revert to his charming android innocence. Chappie, however, is Gangsta forever. It just doesn’t work.
Meanwhile, there is a growing threat from Vincent (Hugh Jackman), a struggling robot designer driven mad with envy at Deon’s success (and of course, Vincent is a Christian). Vincent puts a gun to Deon’s head at the office—literally—then invites people to church. Later, when learning of Deon’s creation, Vincent determines to hunt down and cut up the unholy thing. This was gut-wrenching by design, sort of like putting down Ol’ Yeller—piece by piece. It also seemed forced. Honestly, I like Hugh Jackman, but when portraying types of people they despise, good actors often unleash their inner activists and go overboard. I half expected Hugh to start yelling, “I smite thee, sinner!”
The film’s message lacks subtlety. Basically, our consciousness is just an equation in our heads; easily reduced to a memory chip. Accept that, and we’ll stop hurting each other. Conversely, belief in God drives many people to evil, corrupting them toward irrational, destructive deeds.
Get it? Science gooooood. God baaaaaad. Ironically, the movie sermonizes louder than a fire and brimstone preacher. After two hours of this, I anticipate nightmares of Chappie chasing after me, relentless as The Terminator, calling out, “Christian people are bad! I am Chappie.”
“No! Please stop preaching to me!”
“I am alive. I am aware—”
“No! Not awareness! Don’t raise my awareness!”
“Why do Christians love war? I am Chappie. Why are profits evil? I am Chappie.”
“Someone stop the voice! Someone stop Metallic Bill Nye!!”
“You have been infected with a Jesus virus. Click here to download protection and remove religious malware. I am Chappie.”
“Stop! I promise to hate people! I’ll mock Christians with Bill Maher! Just PLEASE STOP TALKING!”
“To wake up, you must say one word to Chappie.”
Despite terrific CGI (Chappie looks strikingly real), this is a depressing movie. People do exaggerated, horrible things. Consciousness is downloadable. There is nothing special about humanity, except when mankind cleanses its religious inclinations and embraces the purity of base programming. The action is somewhat entertaining, but only those resenting religion and profits could take good feelings from such a tedious lecture.
At one point, Chappie—whose battery is failing—presses the religious question to his maker, “Why did you make me so I could die?”
My answer would be, “Well Chappie, we received a lot of requests…”