CHAPPiE

Class unconsciousness


We're 'still see superhero movies' stupid, not 'still see Spike Lee movies' stupid.
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Reported on 22nd of September, 2015

JJ Abrams wept. Yeah, I use the wept gag a lot, but who reads the bible anyway? It’s online now; just google the parts you agree with. My real feelings walking away from CHAPPiE don’t know from tired bits and ‘JJ Abrams wept’ was a genuine first draft/best draft reaction to a film so contrived and non-sequitorious it could embarrass Mr. Abrams, I tempted fate saying before Episode 7 comes out.

CHAPPiE

10 March 2015 @ The Cineworld Crawley


-$4.00 or, if one must be prosaic, and one must... 
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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For our purposes here, however, the patchwork of puce, checkerboard and puce plaid checkerboard scenes is wonderfully bad meme factory, which either makes bad memes well, or is very bad at making good ones. Trying to get some metaphorical pleasuremoney back I will relate said memes. Give the plethora of sequelizations going on within the film, let’s think of what follows as its own Verhoeven re-tread: call it Half-Assed Recall.

Beginning a film with an eighteen months earlier is never a good sign. I’ve said this before, some undefined period ago. Real talking head scientists, telling us how astonishing what we’re about to see is an daring blunder. If your movie is in no way astonishing, having desperate real life cheerleaders helps the audience about as much as a warm-up comic at…anything. A warm-up comic at anything.

What’s worse, such comments from real scientists only work in the context of reality. Making a movie with an Afrikaans rappin’ robot is not the same as creating artificial intelligence. Why, it’s as if the filmmakers think they have completed their doctorate in AI. I mean, it takes six years of tireless research to be able to press a button and wait for the progress bar to go to 100%.

Yeah. That happens in the movie. Both the rappin’, rappin’, robots, and the progress bar. Sorry, that’s not fair. The progress bar happens twice. When CHAPPiE invents consciousness.

I told you. Memes!

Before I make this film sound way better than it is, remember that having seen it is wonderful, seeing it is agony. It’s a question of tension, as in the gerundive of ‘tense.’

Also Something.

Hey, that’s the same place I saw Robocop. Was I there the whole time?

For true aficionados of both the Robocop films and Mr. Tom Noonan, CHAPPiE is technically a remake of Robocop 2. We know this because of the combination of quasi-Marxism and terrible haircuts. Don’t correct me; I know that’s an oxymoron.

Ms. Sigourney Weaver plays the head of Omnicorp, I mean Tetravaal, Tetravaal, not Omnicorp, which provides robot backup to the police of South Africa. Said robots prevent a heist, the failure of which makes super haircut criminal mad. We know this because when he places a time limit on our not-in-any-way-sympathetic other criminals, he clarifies that a week is defined traditionally, under the Gregorian calendar, as ‘SSSSSEEEEEVVVVVVEEEENNNN DAAAAAAYYYYYYSSSSSSZZZZZZZZZ!’

Memes typically emerge from moments that a critical mass of people (say more than four) have actually seen. But as this line reading is as exceptional as Mr. Eddie Remayne’s rendition of ‘I create life…and destroy it!‘…aw, crap. You don’t know that one, do you? Jupiter Ascending, guys. Come on. You need to see more movies. So you can appreciate the internet better.

Our NIAWSOCs are played, not well, by ¥o-Landi Vi$$er and Ninja, two Afrikaans hip-hoppers in a Möbius strip contest to see whose handle can cause the most embarrassment in the 1990s. Mw. Vi$$er and Hr. Ninja (hey, I made their names stupider) now face the ultimate dilemma, make the money make back for the grammatically dramatic villain, or, um, go somewhere else. I remember the dialog as follows:

“I know where you live!”

“He knows where we live! We’d never be able to go to another place. We only have a week! A week! It’s impossible!!!”

“What’s a week again? I forget.”

I suppose what I’m trying to convey is that these set-ups are so pricelessly boneheaded that they hold absolutely no interest or tension. Until, of course, a challenger appears (well, if you haven’t seen Jupiter Ascending, I guess you need this). To wit, at this point Mr. Dev Patel invents AI with the progress bar (see above). This, amazingly, is not the boneheaded set-up I’m talking about.

No, the set-up is that having invented AI, he is kidnapped by our extremely irritating criminal types. I may have mentioned that they are irritating. I must have some reason why I keep saying that. I can’t imagine what it would be. They want to force him to turn off the police robots and thus to commit that heist seven days hence. Mr. Patel has the Guard Key that can turn off all the other robots, which he needed to make AI, though it didn’t actually use it. As it happens, the Guard Key can’t turn off the other robots. That is, until the end, when it does. So, instead they hold him hostage. Until they release him. So he can come back.

I’m not kidding. This actually happens in the film, if we stretch the word ‘happens’ as far as it can go.

In the meantime, Mr. Hugh Jackman, an actual actor, just gets the haircut. No, we don’t see him getting the haircut, I was trying to make the film seem more interesting. Mr. Jackman, it seems, is in charge of the super-big robot program, which is in danger of being shut down. The reason: his robots have too much firepower. If only there was a branch of government that used firepower. It slipped my mind. It’ll come to me. No, really. Given how much I ramble on about terrorism and JJ Abrams, they’ll be knocking down my door any minute now.

Leaving that baffling story point aside, Mr. Jackman discovers that Mr. Patel has stolen the Guard Key. Remember? It’s the thing that does stuff, unless it can’t, and then it will. Seemingly inspired by this inanimate object that can do anything unless it doesn’t, Mr. Jackman, can, at this point, turn in Mr. Patel and get everything he wants. Instead, seemingly as confused as we are as to what the even most basic story mechanics are, he does nothing. At least by doing nothing, he has not added more for me to write.

At this point, let us sketch a brief rule of thumb: if you can't explain the story of your film in the time it takes to watch it, you're in trouble. Also, if your story doesn't have a trace of recognizable human behavior. Oh, I see now. Those two are related.  Huh.

Unfortunately, we’re not done yet. For it seems that CHAPPiE, in order to have another time limit, has only four days to live. This is because batteries are impossible to replace. When we learn this, Mr. Patel follows by saying with wide-eyed optimism, and without a trace of goddamn empathy or common sense, ‘You can do anything in this life…anything!’ He wasn’t watching the movie either.

At this point, the NIAWSOCs, who have kidnapped CHAPPiE, but he’s also free to go at any time, so he stays, decide to leave him in the bad part of town. We know this because it’s not a quirkily spray-painted warehouse. Here, he is inexplicably tormented by the local bullies, losing his arm. I think this was a ham-fisted attempt to get us to feel sympathy for our erstwhile row-bert, not realizing by virtue of his not being human, he was already there.

I say that, knowing in retrospect that CHAPPiE may be the first unsympathetic robot in cinema history. His downfall is easily traced to the unfortunate Poochie Wept (can’t stop me know) decision to have him begin rapping and styling, ‘I’ve got blings’ may be forced meme, but only by virtue of my cramming it down the filmmakers’ throats.

At this point or some point or maybe I dreamed this but I didn’t, CHAPPiE invents consciousness. He does this, like his progenitor, via the famed progress bar. When it reaches 100%, he says ‘I know what consciousness is’.

Don’t see this movie. I don’t care how great I’m making it sound.

So there’s some running around and the heist happens because it’s been some forgettable number of days. Remember that the entire idea behind the heist was to turn off the robot cops, which they now do with the thing that couldn’t do it. Since they no longer need CHAPPiE for the heist, they bring him along. Then his battery runs out and he has to find a new body, which normally he wouldn’t be able to do, but he can now, because he knows what consciousness is. There’s only one of these bodies, which is at the place where there will be a great showdown with Tom Noonan’s, sorry Hugh Jackman’s, Hugh Jackman’s, giant rowbert.

At this point, let us sketch a brief rule of thumb: if you can’t explain the story of your film in the time it takes to watch it, you’re in trouble. Also, if your story doesn’t have a trace of recognizable human behavior.

Oh, I see now. Those two are related. Huh.

So. CHAPPiE is off to that only body that can save him. Seems pretty mundane given what has transpired so far. But this action is near-epic ineptness. See, what you generally want when you write is to have two subplots come together in an unexpected way. Here, the Guard Key has turned off all the robots (which we were told it couldn’t do), and CHAPPiE needs a new body (which we were told he couldn’t use).

But let’s accept that. At this point, this is what good screenwriters dream of: a conflation that isn’t coincidental. They need empty robot bodies and there are hundreds of them strewn over over only-we-get-to-call-it-that Jo-Berg. He could simply use one of the bodies. He doesn’t. This crystallizes the level of filmmaking we’re talking about, that they can’t even recognize basic story mechanics, even when they’ve accidentally made some.

As they must, all return for the super battle, which I’m fairly sure took place in two locations. Someone made that two hand T-symbol that they do in sports, whatever that’s called. As usual, CHAPPiE has a ‘To kill giant robot press here’ button, which just as usual, he waits until the end to use. In any other film, this nod to genre would be almost comforting; here, it’s just part of the list.

Mr. Patel’s consciousness is transferred into another rrerrbewt, after being told there was only one, even though there were hundreds, as is Mw. Vi$$er’s. This means there could only be one, but there are three into there could only be one, but there are hundreds. And back to shantytown to show us that white hip-hop artists are super authentic and computer programmers have a lesson to learn. As with the equally ill-conceived, and I’m depressed to think better, Elysium, this lesson is undecipherable. Let’s call it class unconsciousness.

The scientists, so prominently featured at the beginning to tell us how great this film was, seem to have caught a test screening and slink off, nowhere to be found. And now, the talking heads we promise something is going to happen honest opening has a problem, Part III, appropriately, from a temporal perspective, at the end. This is because it occurred even before I saw CHAPPiE.

See, I knew I was going to hate this film the second I saw the trailer for it before, and this is the kind of coincidence that would actually be in CHAPPiE, but I swear I just looked it up, that I saw before Jupiter Ascending. Seeing the trailer, my thought was simple, and should have been transmitted to the filmmakers: Wow. Her really was a good movie.

When you make a film in a genre, you refer to the other films of that genre. There is no escaping this. When you make Robots R People Too film, you refer to 2001, Silent Running, Robocop (yep) and now Her. Not coincidentally, Her did this, with the constant awareness that Samantha was a version of HAL. Her is a better film, sure, it’s a film that redefined the genre, also true. But it’s also a film that did both these things two years ago. We’re ‘still see superhero movies’ stupid, not ‘still see Spike Lee movies’ stupid.

When faced with a film like Her in recent memory, you either make your film better, change something, or make another movie. What you don’t do is what Ex Machina and (shudder) Transcendance also did, and these talking heads seem to suggest: make a movie that pretends that it’s the first of its kind, cross your fingers, and hope that the audience has never seen another movie. That would only work if we read books.

Don’t be ridiculous.

The Take

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Profits!
Here’s an odd one, given that it’s in the trailer. In said trailer, we see CHAPPiE use his metal body to protect somebody, the sacrifice invoking an obvious sympathy. This moment is actually another robot, doing the same thing, which is then immediately glossed over. It’s not just that the trailer is better, that’s par for the course. It’s that it paradoxically contains more good footage.
$1.00
Total Profits
$1.00
Losses!
 To be immortalized in 24pt Impact:
‘Use the explosive!’ ‘They’re going to use the explosive’
$1.00
After every single criminal gets away (see above):’Another success for the police!’
$1.00
‘The police just placed an order for a 100 more scouts. This is very good news!’ Not very funny on its own, but this is Ms. Sigourney Weaver prompting extras on camera to applaud. It’s jaw-dropping.
$1.00
‘Nurture your creativity, Chappie!’
$1.00
‘Everyone will know what you did! I will totally tell someone fairly soon, as every second I don’t is a second my life is in danger, and the city of Johannesberg burns. Very soon. Like any minute now.’
$1.00
Fine. I added to that last one.
Total Losses
$5.00

-$4.00

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