Tag Archives: Hugh Jackman

Film Review: Chappie

Review by Graeme Wood
15.03.15

 

Chappie_filmtrailer

Neil Blomkamp brings us his third feature following the critically acclaimed audience favourite ‘District 9’ and the less successful Hollywood looking but soulless ‘Elysium’.

In a near future Johannesburg a robot police force are being deployed to clean up the gangster ruled streets of the city. The robots creator Deon Wilson dreams of taking the robots development further and introducing a consciousness, something his finance driven boss Michelle Bradley forbids. Taking matters into his own hands Deon steals a badly damaged robot in an attempt to upload his new software, plans go badly awry however when a criminal gang kidnap him and he is forced to adapt the robot in a plan to make it steal for them. Meanwhile, his rival for funding Vincent Moore, frustrated by the company’s refusal to further develop his altogether less subtle ‘Moose’ law enforcement robot programme, exploits the situation to his own ends.

It’s an intriguing scenario especially with the surrounding South African backdrop providing a different visual feel and the pacy narrative is never less than gripping. The essence of the film is that Chappie_FilmStillonce adapted with a consciousness Chappie, as the robot is named; will quickly develop into something more than human. It’s a familiar theme for movies this year having been explored in ‘Ex-Machina’ and the soon to arrive ‘Avengers-Age of Ultron’. ‘Chappie’ plays as more intelligent version of Robocop but there is also plenty of humour to be had in the scenes of Chappie’s childlike growth and his behaviour when copying the slang and attitudes of his gangsta ‘mother’ Yolandi and ‘father’ Ninja. Yet there is also a certain sadness that he is so easily led into acts of criminality, drawing some parallels with bad parenting skills perhaps. Yet the film never tips over into gimmicky or sentimental overplay, Blomkamp and co-writer Terri Tatchell ensure matters remain earthy, edgy and never more than a moment away from quite shocking violence.

What is remarkable is how easily we warm to Chappie itself, played using motion capture and voiced by District 9’s Sharlto Copley, the very metal looking robot mimics human body language well enough to covey its awkwardness and emotions with ease. As it develops you can see it moving from curious child through adolescence to gullible adult without it changing appearance accept for an amusing ‘street’ makeover complete with tattoos and bling. Even Chappie’s face somehow manages to convincingly emote while remaining nothing more than a small screen with moving parts and lights.

Visually there is little attempt to glamorise the city itself and it remains a bleak landscape with Blomkamp focusing on its more downtrodden areas. Like his two previous films it is worth noting that save for Dev Patel’s Deon Wilson almost all of the company employees and gangsters are played by Chappiefilm_kushfilms.comwhite actors. A few smaller roles within the police force only are played by black actors. Do Chappie and Deon, persecuted throughout; therefore represent something more than their characters? It’s hard to say as, despite there being plenty of opportunity for racial allegories; the writers do not appear especially interested in delving too deeply into the social aspects of matters. For example, no attempts are made to draw on why people would be so accepting of a robotic police force, though there is a religious sub-plot touched upon when Moore views Chappie’s self-awareness as a god-less abhorrence.

Some may struggle with the first act which is a little too hectic and packed with unlikeable criminals speaking in barely distinguishable South African slang. Oddly the cut I saw had subtitles for a character who was perfectly comprehensible but none for snatches of the Afrikaans dialogue.

Dev Patel is therefore our only identification figure, at least until Chappie is rebooted, and handles the role of benign father with likeability and charm, though any real scientists watching may be wincing at his work methods. Oddly the two least well drawn characters are played by the biggest Chappie_HughJackmannames. Sigourney Weaver gets to scowl a lot in her office but is sorely underused, while Hugh Jackman relishes his casting against type as antagonist Moore whose motivation, while explained becomes unbelievable as he resorts to increasingly melodramatic methods to prove his robot is every bit as good as Deon’s. If this is supposed to represent his inner clash between veteran soldier and the scientist he has become then it merely falls into Alpha Male territory.

Of the other cast both actors who play the robot’s surrogate parents, Ninja (yes that’s his actual name) and Yo-Landi Visser, who are part of a rap group in real life, bring a down to earth and very South African feel to things, Ninja is the least likeable and brings little warmth or presence to his mindless gangsta shtick, both feel ‘too white’ though to have cast black actors would have felt too stereotypical. There characters bear the same names and though shrill and unlikeable they have an interesting arc within the film. The bond they develop with Chappie seems to bring them together as a family unit to the point that both become heroic in the last act. This supports the development of Chappie and draws on the underlying theme of family. Not that it all ends in a cosy finale; after a number of high octane action sequences, delivered by Blomkamp in all their messy glory, the climax is even more visceral. The fact that you’re rooting for two criminals and a robot says much about the way the film draws you into this unusual, flawed but inventive story. There is a hasty epilogue about transferring human consciousness into robot bodies that makes little sense and leaves Chappie an ultimately flawed but very enjoyable film.


kushfilms.com

Film Review: X Men Days of Future Past

Written by Michael Dequina
23/05/14

 

 

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-poster-

Days of Future Past is based on, but fairly liberally adapts, one of the most famous and beloved of storylines on the X-Men comics pages.

The botched third installment of the film series, The Last Stand, and this one provide a classic compare-and-contrast case study in how one can effectively take necessary liberties with the source material while still respecting and retaining the core arcs and themes–and Bryan Singer, returning to the X director’s chair after a decade-plus absence, not only gets the balance right but also further enriches the material and the ongoing film franchise with his own unique spin.

The basic scenario remains the same. Sometime in the future, humanity’s prejudices against super-powered mutants have escalated not only to outright war but genocide, with mutants being hunted down and exterminated by giant robot executioners known as Sentinels. With the free mutant population, much less the X-Men team, reduced a rapidly dwindling few, a desperate, last-minute plan to save the race is enacted: send the consciousness of one remaining X-Man back in time to prevent an assassination that serves as the literal and figurative trigger point for the chain of events directly leading up to that point.

Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg then adjust the details, both to keep in line with the films’ own unique continuity and, to be frank, satisfy certain commercial interests. Here, instead of that of a fear-mongering senator, the assassination that must be thwarted is that of the very creator of the Sentinels themselves, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage); but the biggest change is that the X-Man being sent back in time is, of course, Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) rather than the comics’ Kitty Pryde.

x men trioWith the fate of the very world, much less the entirety of mutantkind, at stake, this is one of the most epically scaled of X-Men comics stories, and the film version reflects that size and ambition in its large ensemble encompassing actors from both the First Class prequel and the original three films in the franchise. But even with an even larger cast than usual, this turns out to be the most intimately focused of the series to date, zeroing in not on Logan but rather Professor Charles Xavier.

While Kitty and the future Professor X (Patrick Stewart) send Logan back to the First Class era of 1973, the Charles he finds there is far from the battered-yet-not-broken one we last saw at the end of that film. Unkempt and living in near-seclusion, his vast telepathic powers suppressed by drugs that enable him to walk (developed by his one remaining young charge, Hank McCoy/Beast, again played by Nicholas Hoult), the 1973 Charles (James McAvoy) *is* broken, and rather bitterly so. A confluence of events and circumstances have drained all hope for and belief in his idealistic dream of mutant and human harmony. And so beyond the concrete physical particulars of reaching Mystique before she can fire her fateful bullet, the greatest task in Logan’s mission to save Xavier’s dream, is to resurrect the dream within the dreamer himself.

And so unlike both the previous films and the source story, Days of Future Past rather boldly plays strongest, not as a typical superhero action extravaganza, but as a truly character-driven drama.

The great irony in pushing Wolverine to the forefront in this version is that he doesn’t have a lot of big fight scenes, which, while possibly disappointing to fans of his trademark berserker rages, effectively reinforces that this is an older, wiser, and (slightly) more mature version of Logan than we’ve seen before.  Jackman does a terrific job conveying the subtler, differing nuances while still maintaining the familiar, devil-may-care core personality, and he and McAvoy have a great rapport with the Logan/Charles role reversal relationship here.

x-men-days-of-future-past - duoBut while Logan is the entry point into the story and concept, the heart is lies with Charles, Erik, and Raven, and Singer takes advantage of the embarrassment of acting riches that is the central trio of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence.  All three are at their most movie star charismatic here, with their formidable dramatic chops lending real gravitas and palpable emotional stakes as they continue their struggles and conflicts with each other and within in order to act for the greater benefit of their kind.

While the film could have used more glimpses of the post-apocalyptic future world Singer makes the scenes set there count as both action beats and solid support for the main story thread in set in the past.

But the biggest support Days of Future Past gives is to the X-film franchise’s future, building on and advancing the renewed fan and general audience goodwill generated by First Class and last summer’s The Wolverine.

Singer and company leave this film with a myriad of promising plot possibilities and directions on where to go next, but what most intrigues is how and where the *characters* progress from this point–a reflection of how well he has captured the true essence of what has made and will make the X-Men’s popularity survive and thrive in days of future and past.

Michael Dequina
http://themoviereport.com

watch the trailer here