I finally got around to seeing the movie "Chappie" this week, and while it wasn't awful, it wasn't that good either.
Dev Patel and Sharlto Copley are serviceable enough in the movie. Copley as the robot Chappie is quite good actually. He does the whole motion capture thing really well and makes Chappie seem life like. I think Copley is a very good actor in fact. I like him in all his roles. Patel is decent as the scientist that created the robotic police force, and while I enjoyed his performance, it was nothing special. It was just okay. My two biggest problems with the movie were Hugh Jackman's performance as the bad guy and the Johannesburg rap duo, Die Antwoord's performance. Jackman, whom I love as an actor the dude plays Wolverine, my all time favorite superhero, does not make a good bad guy. He's too nice of a guy, and for those of you out there saying, Wolverine is kind of a dick, Wolverine is still a good guy in the end. It wasn't for lack of trying on Jackman's part either, that's on the writers and director, he's just too nice of a person in real life, that I don't buy him as the bad guy. It doesn't fit. Die Antwoord's performance was just confusing. I don't know if they're playing themselves in this futuristic world, or if their characters are just big fans of Die Antwoord's music. For example, they each go by their rap names in the movie, and there's, at least two that I can remember seeing, times that Ninja(that's the guy in Die Antwoord) is wearing his own band's merchandise as his wardrobe. I was confused by the whole thing. The two of them aren't very good actors either, which didn't help their case. The movie was very formulaic and you could tell how the movie would end very early in the plot. It was another disappointment from Neill Blomkamp, who I really liked after seeing his first movie, "District 9".
This brings me to my main point and question of my blog today, is Neil Blomkamp the new M Night Shyamalan? Let's start by comparing each director's first movie. Shyamalan came out of the gate and crushed a grand slam with the brilliant, innovative, and probably biggest shock in a movie in my lifetime with "The Sixth Sense". Talk about a great debut. This movie was well written, well acted and perfectly directed. People talked about the ending for years, and "I see dead people" has become as big as "My wife!" or "I knew it was you, you broke my heart"(if you don't know those references, you need to get up to speed people!). Blomkamp's debut was just as unique as Shyamalan's and maybe even more innovative. I'm of course talking about the brilliant "District 9". I remember seeing posters at movie theaters a year before this movie came out that just had a shadow picture of an alien, and the saying, "Humans not allowed". I was immediately intrigued by this and found out any and all information I could about this upcoming alien movie. As more previews and clips came out, I got more and more excited. I saw the movie on opening night, and it not only live up to my expectations, but it exceeded them.
"District 9" takes place in Johannesburg and there's a race of aliens, known as "prawns" living in the slums. They're treated as second class citizens, and in his film debut, Sharlto Copley plays a wet behind the ears, yet eager police officer. He goes into the "prawns" area to extract and arrest some that are stealing from the humans. He gets poisoned by an alien and slowly starts to turn into one. It is so awesome to watch his character's transformation into an alien and the movie has a great secondary story about how higher class people treat people they feel are below them. If you haven't seen "District 9" stop reading this, watch it, and then come back and finish reading this, That movie is so great.
Unforunately, at least in Blomkamp's case, the same can't be said for his second movie, "Elysium". Another good premise about the upper and lower classes in society, but this movie just didn't work for me. Matt Damon was miscast as a working class, former bad boy trying to turn his life around. Jodie Foster plays the leader of the higher class people living on the rich planet Elysium, and she's your typical, bitchy rich lady that only cares about the high society folks and can do without the poor people. She also sports a terrible South African accent. It's so bad. I mean, it's terrible. The only person I enjoyed in this movie was Copley. He plays a bad ass assassin for Foster's character and he's awesome. He's a great bad guy and he kicks total ass. But, he cannot save this movie. It's just not a good movie.
Shyamalan's second movie, "Unbreakable", I personally like more than "The Sixth Sense". It's a cool, pseudo superhero movie that I feel is criminally underrated. Bruce Willis is on a train that has a brutal crash and he's the only survivor. He actually comes out unscathed. Samuel L Jackson plays a big comic book guy and he's very intrigued by Willis' character and the fact that he did not even get a scratch in the train wreck. They team up and do some cool, super hero type stuff. It's a really good movie and I highly recommend watching it.
I've already mentioned Blomkamp's third, and most recent movie, "Chappie". You all know how I feel about that. After the success of "The Sixth Sense" and the high of making "Unbreakable", Shyamalan's star was going up, and it was never going to come down. Or so we thought. He followed "Unbreakable" with the god awful, Joaquin Phoenix and Mel Gibson bomb of a movie "Signs". That movie sucks, but hey, you can't hit a home run every time. Certainly his next movie would be better, it had to be. Once again, nope, he made "The Village" and that movie is worse than "Signs". I think it's Nicolas Cage's version of "The Wicker Man" bad. That movie is confusing and awful. He followed that up with "Lady in the Water". You know that movie about a mermaid, or some bull shit, that a guy finds in his pool and she of course has special powers. So, three stinkers in a row. Was this a sign of things to come, or was he just in a slump? His next movie would determine his fate in my opinion. He had the great un fortune of deciding to put out "The Happening". You know this movie, the one were plants come to life and make people kill themselves and Mark Wahlberg plays a scientist and calls himself a douchebag at one point. This movie was so bad that I convinced a group of about eight people to walk out. A movie we all paid for, and we didn't stay for the whole thing. I'd never done that before, but that's how bad that movie is. His next two movies did nothing to prove me wrong, that he was past his prime. He released the horrendous "Last Airbender" and the stupid and contrite "After Earth". Both these movies are just plain awful. "The Last Airbender" is so bad that fans of the anime won't even acknowledge the movie as part of the series. That's pretty telling. Shymalan is now dabbling in television with the mini series "Wayward Pines", and while it started interesting, I didn't finish it because it was way to boring and falling into Shymalan's routine of posing way too many questions that there's no way they could all be answered in ten, one hour episodes.
While I feel that Shymalan's fate is sealed as a director(he peaked early and is now no good), I think there's still hope for Blomkamp. He's only made three movies. "District 9" is, by a wide margin, his best movie, but while I didn't like either "Chappie" or "Elysium", at least "Chappie" was a bit more interesting and a touch better than "Elysium". I hope for his sake he's not turning into Shymalan, but the way it's going now, that's what I unfortunately see happening.
Time will tell I suppose.
Ty is the Pop Culture Editor for SeedSing and co-host of the X Millennial Man podcast. In the upcoming movie about SeedSing, Ty will have to wear Die Antwoord gear. Follow him on twitter @tykulik