Kurt Loder Reviews Chappie

A sci-fi misfire from Neill Blomkamp.


Columbia Pictures

South African director Neill Blomkamp is an ace action man with an unfortunate need to enlighten us about social issues. His first feature, the 2009 District 9, did this in a clever way, echoing the horrors of apartheid by showing us a populace of alien creatures stranded in Johannesburg and confined to squalid townships by their contemptuous human overlords. District 9 was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, and allowed Blomkamp to go Hollywood in a big way. His next film, the twerpy Elysium, tackled the hot-button issue of healthcare and didn't make back its big budget in this country (although it cleaned up overseas).

Now we have Chappie, a movie with even deeper thoughts on its mind, none of them new. What does it mean to be human? the picture asks. And if God is so great, why must we die? Also, why do film scripts always have to make sense? Why shouldn't non-actor pop stars be given a shot at lead roles?  And why don't we see more rubber chickens on the big screen? Blomkamp remains expert at blending CGI characters into real-world environments, and the action scenes are once again first-rate. But it's still a very silly movie.