Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Chappie Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
In the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. But now, the people are fighting back. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. As powerful, destructive forces start to see Chappie as a danger to mankind and order, they will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo and ensure that Chappie is the last of his kind. Directed by Neill Blomkamp from a screenplay by Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, CHAPPiE was produced by Neill Blomkamp and Simon Kinberg, with Ben Waisbren serving as executive producer.
Film (2 out of 5 stars)
Chappie takes place in Johannesburg where crime is at an all-time high.  The Tetra Vaal Corporation has provided a robotic police force to minimize human losses.  The robots were created by designer Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) and they have been programmed to protect the human officers and use violence when necessary to keep the peace.  Ex-solider and weapons designer Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) created a larger, more aggressive robot called “Moose” which he believes is the way to keep the city safe.  Moore argues that Moose is superior to the bots because it is controlled by a thinking, feeling, human being.

A trio of criminals named Ninja, Yolandi and Amerika have had a deal go bad and they owe a lot of money to the boss to make things right. If they don’t come up with the 20,000,000 he asks for they will certainly be killed. They decide to kidnap Deon Wilson and make him turn off all the police robots. The kidnapping is successful and they learn that the robots cannot be turned off.  

Wilson recently developed what could be the first artificial intelligence.  He believes that his program will create a self-aware robot, but the head of Tetra Vaal (Sigourney Weaver) would not allow him to test the program. Out of desperation, Wilson has stolen a robot set for destruction. He is in possession of this robot when he is kidnapped by the gang of criminals. He can’t turn the robot police force off so the kidnappers tell him to fix the broken robot for them. They envision being unstoppable with their own metal protector. Wilson’s program is successful and a self-aware artificially intelligent robot is born, but he isn’t the gangster the gang hopes for. Instead he is more like a child. The robot, named Chappie quickly learns to walk and talk. He is curious like a child and unfamiliar with his surroundings. 

Yolandi almost immediately starts referring to herself as Chappie’s Mommy. She loves, cares for and reads to him. Ninja teaches Chappie to fight and shoot as well as some tough real world lessons as he drops him middle of nowhere to fight of a gang of teenagers and find his way home. As Yolandi reads Chappie bedtime stories and tucks him in we learn that Chappie’s battery cannot be replaced and therefore he has a limited shelf-life/life span. This leads to the evaluation of what consciousness is for human and artificial intelligence. Vincent Moore and his oversized killing machine Moose also comes back into play as he convinces Tatravaal that he’s the answer to everyone’s problem. 

Chappie comes from the man who brought District 9 and Elysium to the world. I had a lukewarm reaction to Elysium and an extremely negative reaction to District 9.  I don’t want to set my copy of Chappie on fire (which is how I felt about District 9) but I didn’t enjoy the film. The film succeeded in convincing you that Chappie was “alive”. Although we know Chappie was made of metal and wires we still feel for him when he was sad and don’t want to see him die. The rest of the film just missed the mark for me but may have landed perfectly for fans of District 9. Chappie left me thinking I’d rather be watching Transcendence, or even Short Circuit.  I often had the feeling that this is just not meant for me and for a science fiction lover, it was very disappointing. Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver and Dev Patel were all great, no complaints. I just wish they were in a different movie.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Chappie’s AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation is excellent.  It is shown in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio and is free from visual noise.  Both live action and computer generated images are seen with great contrast and sharpness.  Every ding or scratch on Chappie’s metal casing is noticeable.  The trio of criminals live and work out of a space covered in art/graffiti and you could spend all day picking out those details as well as reading the body art.  Flesh tones are even and consistent and black levels and depth are outstanding.  Another beautiful Blu-ray from Sony.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Chappie's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack provides an immersive and satisfying experience.  I had some issues with the dialogue but that’s due to the accents not the quality or volume.  The film has authentic gun fire and related violent sounds.  The audio is well balanced with a great surround experience.
Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Blu-ray contains a lengthy list of features which include alternate ending.  All but “We Are Tetra Vaal” are exclusive to the Blu-ray.

  • We Are Tetra Vaal (5:53) – A brief look at the cast including Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver and Dev Patel.
  • Alternate Ending
  • Extended Scene:  Very Bad Men
  • Chappie: The Streetwise Professor ( 9:31) - An overview of Chappie's character and evolution. Also included is a look at Copley's performance.
  • From Tetra Vaal to Chappie   (7:30): A featurette focused on the slightly alternate reality of the film with a highlight on story and character arcs.
  • Jozi: Real City and a Sci-Fi Setting (15:03): An in depth look at Johannesburg and some other specific locations used in the film.
  • Keep It Gangster (7:07) – A featurette focused on Ninja, Yolandi and Amerika – the gangster trio from the film.
  • Rogue Robot: Deconstructing the Stunts and Special Effects (14:21): A look at the visual effects and stunt sequences.
  • Arms Race: The Weapons and Robots (6:25): As the title describes, a look at the weaponry and robotics.
  • Bringing Chappie to Life: The Visual Effects (8:01): This featurette takes a look at the process of creating Chappie.
  • The Reality of Robotics (5:34) - A discussion of artificial intelligence
  • The Art of Chappie Gallery A collection of concept art which include Chappie, Moose, Yobot, Production Design, Storyboards, Director Sketches, and Poster Art.
  • Previews for additional Sony releases.
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
I couldn’t get into the world of Chappie, which had too much happening. I tried to give the film and honest chance and not hold District 9 against it, but it just didn’t work for me. Those who liked District 9 will likely enjoy this movie as well. I can admit that the big stars performed well and even Chappie himself was believable and made you feel for him. Chappie seamlessly interacts with the rest of the cast and never feels like a computer generated character. The rest of the film annoyed me and had me checking my watch to see if it was over. I thought Chappie was crappy but I realize I’m probably in the minority. Sony’s Blu-ray looks and sounds great and has a substantial list of special features. Chappie wasn’t for me but it wouldn’t go so far as to not recommend it to anyone else.  Certainly, try it out to see if it’s for you before making the purchase. Usually I end with recommended or not recommended. In this case, I say everyone has to make that decision for themselves.

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