I am discovery. I am wonder. I am chappie.
When I saw the first trailers for this movie, I thought to myself "Oh, looks like an unassociated redo of Short Circuit with a more humanoid robot." Of course, that's not a bad thing in my mind, so I filed it away on the "I should watch this when it comes out" list and here we are. Did it end up being a gangster Johnny 5? Does it stand on it's own two robotic legs? Is this the robot that you didn't want, but the robot you needed?
Police are having a very bad time in South Africa. It's gotten so bad down there, in fact, that they have started enlisting the help of robot Scout units from a local arms manufacturer to help put down the crime. These robot's hold an advanced robotic AI in them to help out the officers, complete with a special USB key that is needed to access and change any of their programming - and only one such key exists. They do an exceptional job, so well that one of the worker's manned drones isn't getting any traction at all, and is in fact slowly having its program funding cut due to their success. Of course, it's not all roses and bags of money for the successful man in charge of the Scout program either - as his one true wish is to make an AI so advanced it's an actual consciousness - a real live person, essentially. Of course, the corporate heads don't care for a robot that's interested in poems and painting - they are a arms business after all.
One of the Scouts seems to have terrible luck - number 22 is constantly getting smashed up and requiring replacement parts. While taking part in a crime bust, it ends up taking a rocket to it's chest and the lab decides it's time to send it to the garbage smasher. Our AI-obsessed friend decides it's the perfect house for his freshly completed AI - and despite his boss shooting him down, he decides to do it anyways. Unfortunately for him, on his way home to do so he ends up getting kidnapped by a trio of crooks who want him to turn off the police Scouts so they can pull off a heist and not be murdered by a bigger crime boss. What ends up happening instead - since the Scouts "have no off switch" - is that he offers to build his new AI robot for them as long as they let him live (partially because he really wants to build his new AI, and primarily because he really doesn't want to get killed). They allow him to do so, but as it turns out the new AI starts off at about baby-human levels of intelligence.
Combined with the fact the now named Chappie has a limited battery, this is quite inconvenient for the crooks. To make matters worse for all of them, the head of the manned robot program get's shot down again, and in a fit of rage decides he only has one course of action - to shut down all the Scouts with the master key, which happens to be stuck in Chappie's head. Chappie is getting some hard-knock lessons from his "father", who of course only sees him as a means to getting the money he needs from the heist, which ends up leading the poor bot to loose an arm during the other programmers pursuit of the key. They thankfully have a spare, but the time for the heist is near, and growing up amongst a bunch of gangsters can't possibly be good for a baby, now can it?
Originally, I wasn't expecting a whole lot of the plot - as I stated in the preamble, I kind of figured this was going to just be a retake on Short Circuit. Although it does bare similarities to said movie, it's also different enough that it doesn't make you constantly compare the two through it's run time. Chappie very much has a bit of a learning experience through the movie, and there isn't very many times at which his learning is contrasted with his actions at all. The closest moment to that would be when he's tricked into knives and throwing stars putting people to "sleep" instead of killing them. The humans, on the other hand, range a broad range of personalities, although they all seem to share an over-exaggerated bit of devotion to something in one way or the other.
Audio mix is well here, and the acting (particularly on our robotic friend) is well enough done. There are a few moments on the human side of things that could be a little less than stellar, although it very well may fit with the characters and isn't so terrible you feel like you walked into the wrong movie or anything. The chemistry behind most of the characters and Chappie is probably the highlight of things, as each seems to have their own influence upon him that you can see reflected in his own personality. Accents can be a bit thick at times, so if you have a hard time understanding accented speech you may want to turn on subtitles - but for the most part I managed to understand everything that was going on.
Graphically, the pictures tell it all. It looks great! The motion of Chappie is done great, at times you'd almost just picture it as a guy in a suit (although it'd need to be a pretty skinny person at times). Bits and pieces of Chappie move with his mood, particularly the antennae-ears and mouth bar. It's also entertaining that they had Chappie learn mannerisms form the gangsters, such as the gait and face-wiping that those characters do. The larger, more weaponized manned robot is reminiscent of a certain Robocop villain, and although it looks great as far as the CG goes, I'd have to agree with most the in-movie responses to it being pretty ugly. It's a bit like a robo-chicken with gun-toting T-Rex arms.
Overall, this was a pretty enjoyable movie. There's some solid moments in it that try and (or do) provoke emotions from the watcher, and leaves with an ending that doesn't expressly beg for a sequel but does leave it open enough that they could go that way should they want. The thought provokers can raft about the lake of morality questions and topics of consciousness brought up by the movie, but the average action hound will find a good handful of scenes to keep them entertained as well. It's solid, although I also don't expect that everyone is going to like it - something about scifi movies seems to not sit well with everyone for some reason. Worth at the least a rent in my opinion however.