Movie review by Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Chappie Poster Image

Common Sense says

age 17+

Underwhelming robot sci-fi thriller is really violent.

R 2015 120 minutes

Parents say

age 12+

Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 13+

Based on 39 reviews

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Community Reviews

age 18+

CHAPPiE Misses the Point of AI Films

Time travel back to 2015, when action movies were generally a dime a dozen (and still are, depending on who you ask). Let's take a look at one such action movie to see whether the passing of seven years has shed any new light on its merits. CHAPPiE (2015) is a sci-fi drama/thriller directed by noted South African director Neill Blomkamp. It was distributed by Columbia Pictures and has a soundtrack by the legendary Hans Zimmer. The film is rated R (Restricted Audiences) by the MPAA and L (Limited Adult Audiences) by the USCCB. As one can deduce from the USCCB's rating, this movie isn't for everyone. As a matter of fact, it's for a minuscule number of people. Like many films of its age/genre, CHAPPiE is plagued by being all action and no depth. The film masquerades as a challenging thought experiment into what would happen if sentient AI got loose in the concrete jungles of Johannesburg, South Africa. Under the hood, the film offers nothing more than violence and glorified depictions of criminal behavior interrupted frequently by dragging moments of cardboard-character dialogue. Don't get me wrong, there are good aspects in the movie. Some of the main cast come off as oddly endearing, and the robot fighting choreography is stunning. Also, occasional bits of dialogue are hilarious, albeit zany, cuss-filled, and varyingly difficult to understand. The movie can't seem to decide whether its primary audience is sci-fi nerds or action buffs. It seems to embrace and alienate both simultaneously, also driving away viewers looking for an easy-to-watch, moral movie with its excessive blood and swearing. Let's look under the hood and see the attitudes the movie is pushing. CHAPPiE makes an attempt at balance in its presentation. It has the aforementioned action mixed with a concept that makes you say, "Huh, I guess that could be interesting." Rather than having cookie-cutter situations where an emotionless (yet, simultaneously, very sad) AI goes haywire, CHAPPiE dares to ask what AI would be like if it was raised by South African gangsters. The action takes center stage, and the actual AI concept is not explored in any thought-provoking way. There aren't any alternative routes for CHAPPiE, the AI character; he just seems to be taken where the film wants him to be, so any misfortunes that happen to him feel particularly forced and don't provoke much pity. Viewers should be aware of the attitudes being presented to them. Most notably, there is a clear anti-war slant, displayed by the main antagonist, played by Hugh Jackman, who is a weapons-obsessed narcissist. The film paints a clear picture of what it thinks individuals who are not necessarily pacifists look like. It also presents what the film thinks should happen to such individuals: a bloody death — spoiler alert. There is also a strange view of Christianity present, with characters blessing themselves at inappropriate times. Christianity in CHAPPiE's universe is more of an afterthought, but it still is a rude gesture toward Christianity as a whole. It's a lack of desire to understand why Christians, Catholics specifically, bless themselves. For viewers who don't want to think more deeply about this, it can be a potentially destructive interpretation. Rather than addressing the dignity of the human person, CHAPPiE explores the dignity of the artificial person. In the film's interpretation, CHAPPiE the character is seen as being fully alive and conscious, possessing the gifts of free will and reason. He encounters some discrimination from characters who write him off as being just a robot. Instead of tackling how society at large would handle AI becoming sentient, the film addresses the AI's experience on a personal and social level; however, as I mentioned before, the situations of hardship for CHAPPiE seem so absurd and forced that they never truly feel like a good character study. For example, there is a scene, dubbed "The Passion of CHAPPiE" by fans, where CHAPPiE undergoes a series of beatings, presumably just because he is a robot. It's so forced that one could watch the scene and laugh, which is not good considering CHAPPiE is supposed to be a living being who is experiencing desolation and abandonment at that point in the film. CHAPPiE really just misses the point of AI movies. Maybe that's what the director was going for: an explosive action movie to turn your brain off to. However, I would argue that turning one's brain off to media is harmful. It's sloth at its most slovenly — being too lazy to pursue a good and preferring to consume crap in place of good, mentally nutritious media. The movie is truth-filled, in a surface-level way. War is bad; loving and valuing even the most insignificant life are good. We understand these concepts, but the movie forces these opinions on the audience in a manner devoid of nuance. It's good to present truth in a film, but even truth can be presented poorly. 15-year-old me left CHAPPiE feeling inspired, but that was due to the crescendoing credits music and post-robot fight adrenaline. One cannot find true inspiration from this film, I now maintain. The kind of inspiration that comes from movies like "Saving Private Ryan" or "Braveheart" is absent in CHAPPiE. The film attempts to inspire viewers to be better people and to sacrifice for those they love; however, the feeling doesn't last because the good and bad characters (or, at least, the ones who seem to fall into those categories most frequently) all seem so phony. One of the characters even dies and has her mind transplanted into a cyborg, which makes me wonder if the characters learned anything. In terms of writing, CHAPPiE could have been fleshed-out more on the moral level, though I'm not sure I trust Blomkamp to do that. The CGI for the movie is most certainly skillfully developed. The textures on the robots are gritty and pleasing to see. CHAPPiE himself fits right into scenes — one might think the actor was wearing the CHAPPiE robot suit right there on set. The story, I maintain, is borderline garbage, especially toward the end. Concluding with CHAPPiE discovering what conscience is because he plugs a brain into a Playstation is pretty dumb. It makes no sense, and it discredits any serious merit that the writers may have had. That really subtracts from the movie's credit toward its skillfulness in development. The situations presented in the plot are, as I have mentioned, absurd. I hesitate to say the movie is motivated by or relevant to the human experience because the only people who can relate to this film are South African gangsters, and I feel like even they would be confused by this hodgepodge of emotions.  I give CHAPPiE a 1.5/5. The concept is compelling but does not dive deep enough. The run-and-gun action is a spectacle, but it can't support the movie's lack of reverence and overall thoughtfulness. I really, truly, have very little to say about this movie, and I strongly advise people not to watch it. The bright lights and pretty colors are not worth exposing oneself to the profuse strong language, the dull story, and an intensely graphic instance of nudity.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much swearing
age 17+
I really liked this movie. But definitely not a kid’s movie

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