Action Blu-ray Review

'Chappie' Blu-ray Review: 'RoboCop' meets 'District 9' in this blockbuster with brains

June 16, 2015Ben Mk



FEATURE: 
Six years ago, writer/director Neill Blomkamp made a splash with District 9, a tale about the plight of illegal aliens (in a very literal sense) set in a dystopian South Africa. Four years later, he followed it up with Elysium, a sci-fi actioner focusing on the strife between the haves and the have-nots in (and above) a futuristic Los Angeles. And now, Blomkamp and actor Sharlto Copley are back with yet another story set amid a down-and-dirty near-future world. This time, they're tackling the subject of sentient machines, and the movie's central character is an artificially intelligent, child-like robot named Chappie.


The setting is 2016 Johannesburg, where a brand new robotic police force has been deployed to patrol the city's crime-ridden streets. The brainchild of Deon Williams (Dev Patel), an engineer at weapons manufacturer Tetravaal, these droid law enforcement officers — commonly known as scouts — run on a rudimentary A.I. operating system. But Deon is on the verge of an even bigger breakthrough: the world's first, truly artificial consciousness. He just needs a test subject.

Enter scout number 22, a badly-damaged droid destined for the scrap heap, and the perfect candidate. But when Deon is kidnapped and forced to reprogram the droid to do the bidding of a criminal gang led by Die Antwoord's Ninja and Yolandi, scout number 22 is reborn as Chappie instead.

Voiced by Copley and made real through the magic of motion capture technology and state-of-the-art computer animation, Chappie receives moral guidance from Deon, tips on how to be Jo'burg's "number one gangsta" from Ninja, and unconditional love from Yolandi. But there are a couple of problems that threaten to end his existence. One of them is his nearly-depleted battery, which has fused with his titanium chassis, making it impossible to replace. And the other is Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), Deon's ruthless competition, who's made it his personal mission to bring down Chappie with his own robotic creation: a hulking, heavily-armed mech enforcer called "The Moose."

What follows is a series of fantastically white-knuckled human-on-robot and robot-on-robot battles, the highlight being a showdown between Chappie and the Moose reminiscent of the battle between RoboCop versus ED-209. But the action is also counterbalanced with scenes that win us over with their offbeat humor and tickle our cerebrums with their thought-provoking ideas. From the notion of a soul to its transference from one corporeal vessel to another, it's all fair game here. And though Blomkamp and co-writer Terri Tatchell don't delve too deeply into philosophical discussions, there's enough of it in the film to ensure Chappie won't be mistaken for just another vapid blockbuster.

AUDIO & VISUALS: 
Chappie's "Mastered in 4K" technical presentation is absolutely flawless in every regard. Colors such as the bright oranges, blues and teals found on the Tetravaal factory floor are vibrant and eye-catching, consistently popping off the screen; blacks, contrast levels and shadow detail are satisfyingly robust; and the overall image is sharp and crystal clear, revealing a never-ending array of detail in the characters and their environments. Equally impressive is the movie's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack, which churns out bursts of gunfire and explosions with precision impact. At the same time, dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible, while the pulsing electronica score is rendered with impressive, room-shaking LFE.


EXTRAS: 
Sony's single-disc Blu-ray release includes an UltraViolet digital copy of the movie, plus the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Alternate Ending (5:16)
  • Extended Scene: Very Bad Man (1:30)
  • From Tetra Vaal to Chappie (7:30) - The first of nine making-of featurettes, which centers on Blomkamp's inspirations for Chappie, his creative partnership with his wife, Terri, the movie's sense of humor, the character's visual evolution and the film's presentation of hyperrealistic sci-fi.
  • Jozi: Real City and a Sci-Fi Setting (15:03) - A piece about the South African city of Johannesburg and its influence on Blomkamp, which also covers how the filmmakers shot key sequences in dangerous areas of the city such as Hillbrow and the Ponte building.
  • Chappie: The Streetwise Professor (9:31) - An exploration of Chappie as a character, featuring discussions of Copley's performance and how it was mapped to the CG-animated character, along with notes on Chappie's design and its progression throughout the film.
  • We Are Tetravaal (5:53) - A brief featurette profiling Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver's Tetravaal characters, and what the actors bring to the film.
  • Keep It Gangster (7:07) - A piece on Die Antwoord's Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser's characters and their "zef" style, as well as the look of the characters of Amerika and Hippo.
  • Rogue Robot: Deconstructing the Stunts and Special Effects (14:21) - A featurette that covers the film's stunt work, as well as the filming of a few key sequences, including the climactic "Moose battle."
  • Arms Race: The Weapons and Robots (6:25) - A short, behind-the-scenes look at the film's physical props, from the firearms, to the scout droids, to the imposing Moose robot.
  • Bringing Chappie to Life: The Visual Effects (8:01) - A piece that highlights the film's CG effects, from their conception as 3D designs to how they were integrated with the live-action footage.
  • The Reality of Robotics (5:34) - A very brief piece that skims the surface of current A.I. research, including the implications to be taken into consideration should a real-life, sentient machine ever come into being.
  • The Art of Chappie Gallery - 296 images in total, focusing on Chappie, Moose, Yobot, Production Design, Storyboards, Director's Sketches and Poster Art.


Chappie is available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment as of June 16th, 2015. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 descriptive audio, as well as Spanish and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Spanish and Thai. The film's runtime is 2 Hrs.






* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on March 6th, 2015.


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