Chappie: Movie Review

ChappieIn 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. Written by Sony Pictures Entertainment

Chappie is the latest SciFi epic from South African writer/director Neill Blomkamp, follows the development of the world’s first self-aware artificial intelligence. The movie’s central theme is heavily inspired by Robocop, and Blomkamp pays homage by voicing the Scouts with Peter Weller’s Robocop voice, and styling the Moose (an alternate design) on Robocop’s ED-209. Although there are obvious parallels between the two movies, Blomkamp has interleaved a thematic complexity not present in Robocop.

Chappie enters the world as a blank sheet, a child with no moral code or understanding of the wider world. The movie follows his development, squeezed into a few short days, from innocent child to responsible adult exploring the influences and events that shape our personalities. I could probably write a thesis on the sub-plots and themes in this movie but here’s the principle questions I noted throughout the movie:

•    Should we allow machines employ lethal force without human intervention?
•    Can religious belief be twisted to defend amoral actions and ideas?
•    Will the creation of artificial intelligent life bring about the end of humanity?
•    How does parental abuse affect child development?
•    Does an abuser still love their child?
•    Is a child’s future determined by their environment?

Despite this subplot complexity, the basic narrative is enjoyable and action sequences believable given the technologic advances present in their world. Dev Patel gives a masterful performance as the awkward genius who creates life then fights to maintain its purity in a violent upbringing. Hugh Jackman has fun with the unfamiliar role of bad guy Vince Moore, a former soldier and designer of an alternate policing robot remotely controlled by a human pilot. The juxtaposition of Moore’s twisted Christian morals and Chappie’s simple adherence to his Maker’s commandants is the most poignant theme throughout the movie for me.

Die Antwoord’s Ninja gives an over-the-top performance as a criminal gang leader, and his partner Yo-landi is believable as gang member turned nurturing mother. Neither is going to win awards for their performances but I thought they worked within Blomkamp’s narrative, which he apparently developed while listening to Die Antwoord’s music.

Chappie is enjoyable and thoughtful scifi movie, and one day it will sit along side Robocop as a classic.



Absinthe: A Review

Penny PibbetsShe plunged her face into the other woman’s cleavage then pulled back to allow the younger woman slip her breast free, and pirouette once for everyone to see its perfection pierced by a stainless steel bar through her nipple. The other woman licked her finger and gave the nipple a rub before they entwined tongues briefly as the crowd roared encouragement. So ended the audience participation portion of Absinthe, a circus cabaret that thrilled Las Vegas audiences over four years and is touring Australia in the famous Speigeltent.

Our host, The Gazillionaire, prefaced the show with this warning:

If you are offended by words like fuck and shit, you’re probably at the wrong fucking show.

The show invokes the surreal world of an Absinthe drinker, a spirit purported to be dangerously addictive psychoactive drug and hallucinogen. Circus performers are interspersed with cabaret numbers sung by the beautiful Green Fairy, and the crude vaudeville humor of The Gazillionaire and his sidekick Penny. They lampooned the audience mercilessly with risque innuendo; if you want a politically correct experience you should wait for Cirque de Soleil.

The circus performers included acrobats, gymnasts and high wire walkers whose athletic prowess matched their physical presence. Bodies so ripped I saw previously unknown muscles straining as they executed feats of strength and agility. Burlesque artists played with fire, raising the tent’s temperature but leaving the crowd wanting more in the best Gypsy Rose Lee tradition. A rollicking pastiche of early 20th Century performing arts.

Some people called Absinthe homophobic and racist but this is hyperbolic rubbish, its crude humor mocks racism and gay eroticism is present in a few of the acts. There is something for everyone but I recommend you leave the kids at home.