Short Circuit meets Robocop in South Africa
Chappie Film Review
We wait to see what Neill Blomkamp can do to for the Alien franchise but Chappie doesn’t engender much faith, instead cementing concerns after his last effort.Returning to a South African setting to work his magic this time around, director Neil Blomkamp depicts a future that’s now all too familiar, with the rampant crime levels being countered by patrolling semi-AI armoured robot police, and vying robot designers keen to have their creations pave the way for safe streets and a safer future. But when the latest creation, instilled with a breakthrough form of full-AI, ends up reprogrammed and in the hands of a couple of low-life gangsters, it’s innocent, child-like mind is given a fast-track lesson in combat and survival on the streets. Rattling around with some great ideas about consciousness and even spirituality, Blomkamp struggles to balance his investigation into the mind of his creation – Chappie – and his desire to hit us with noisy action sequences.Whilst it might seem simplistic to just break this down into a meeting of Robocop and Short Circuit, Blomkamp isn’t capable of covering up his references. Chappie’s Johnny Number 5 rattles around like an innocent (complete with a low battery) caught up in a violent world, whilst the latest opposing creation is a hulking beast of a machine which bears a striking resemblance to ED-209. Sure, Blomkamp already trod a similar path with Elysium’s robot police, but he did so with more originality, although the end result still resorted to the same ultimate methodology: crank up the action and leave the social commentary at the door. Perhaps there’s a longer cut somewhere – or an alternative cut – but as it stands Chappie is a 2 hour mess, with some good ideas mixed in with a lot of noise.
Blu-ray Picture QualityChappie hits Region Free UK Blu-ray with a stunning 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The disc really shows off the more impressive effects-based setpieces, and highlights the pure spectacle of the feature.
Demo and reference quality in every way, Chappie is glorious, at least visually.
Detail is magnificent, revelling in the every nuance of Chappie’s own distinctive design, from the paintwork to the minor – and not so minor – damage that gives it character. The environment is also thick with intricacies, affording a rich backdrop brimming with nuances and allowing for exemplary shots, from close-ups to mid-range to broad landscapes. The colour scheme is bold and vibrant, with some vivid tones against a healthy and natural backdrop. Skin tones are largely sun-drenched, whilst black levels remain deep and strong, affording impressive shadow detail. There’s almost nothing to complain about in this near-perfect video presentation; reference standard demo fodder.
Blu-ray Sound Quality
The disc’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is just as impressive, providing an engulfing aural accompaniment.
Dialogue remains precise and focussed across the fronts and centre channels, clearly and coherently disseminated above the rest of the variable chaos. Effects are finely nuanced, allowing for suitably authentic mechanical whirrs and electronic hums, whilst the streets frequently come alive with the frenzied buzz of helicopter and ground-based patrols. The main action setpieces promote some thunderous gunfire which ignites the main stage, bringing the surrounds into full use, whilst the LFE channel provides welcome support. It’s an engaging, immersive track, easily demo quality and nigh-on perfect.
A strew of additional features fill out the disc to the brim, with a number of featurettes dipping into various aspects of the production, as well as some additional footage and previews.
From Tetra Vaal to Chappie looks at the origins of the story; Jozi: Real City and a Sci-Fi Setting looks at the director’s favoured Johannesburg setting; Chappie: The Streetwise Professor focuses on the main character; We Are Tetravaal and Keep it Gangster further expand out to the rest of the cast, split into 2 factions; Rogue Robot offers insight into the effects; Arms Race looks at the weaponry; Bringing Chappie to Life explores the visual effects; and The Reality of Robotics compares some of the concepts, briefly, to real life. All in all, we’re talking about well over an hour of background material, some of which is well worth your time.
The disc is rounded off by an Extended Scene, an Alternate Ending, a Gallery, and some Previews.
Chappie Blu-ray VerdictChappie at least looks tremendous, making you wonder what Blomkamp might have delivered if he’d had a handle on the Robocop remake. He’s got a great eye for blending computer and practical effects, which gives his visuals a much more authentic feel. The trouble is, for a third effort, you’d have hoped that Blomkamp would have honed his craft by now. Unfortunately, rather than polishing up the brutal blend of socio-political allegory and body-horror action-violence that bolstered his debut, through Elysium and now this, he appears more interested in blinding you with visual carnage than developing the method behind the madness.
Chappie is certainly a feast for the eyes, even if it leaves the brain wanting, and the Blu-ray release makes the most of shining a light on the spectacle.
This Region Free UK release looks stunning, with reference video and audio and a strong selection of extras completing a package which fans should eagerly lap up. Anybody else interested might consider a rental first.
You can buy Chappie on Blu-ray here
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.