Manuel here to play our favorite trailer watching game.
Is it safe to say that of the 47 films to have been nominated for Best Picture ever since the category's expansion, District 9 remains the oddest, with its sci-fi concept, low-tech execution and lack of big name recognition? Neill Blomkamp and Sharlto Copley followed that up with Elysium which very few of us have thought about since it came out. They’re re-teamed for Chappie which, well, I’ll just give you the synopsis:
Every child comes into the world full of promise, and none more so than Chappie: he is gifted, special, a prodigy. Like any child, Chappie will come under the influence of his surroundings - some good, some bad - and he will rely on his heart and soul to find his way in the world and become his own man. But there's one thing that makes Chappie different from anyone else: he is a robot. The first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. His life, his story, will change the way the world looks at robots and humans forever.
They’ve both lost me already; wanna see whether the trailer won me back? Herewith, a special YES/NO/MAYBE SO assessment of this trailer via all of the films it made me think of as I was watching it:
- Chappie’s character design is enough of a riff on known commodities (C3PO, Short Circuit, 80s Robot) without feeling derivative. I particularly love the ears/antenna.
- I'm fascinated by the fact that Copley is (to my knowledge) not playing Chappie via motion capture a la Serkis, but rather in a more rudimentary fashion ("they're animating over my movements," he notes). That might make for an interesting approach; and might give us an interesting Copley performance.
- I love the POV shot from inside Chappie’s head (is he also looking for Sarah Connor?)
- That He-Man cameo is pretty awesome.
- District 9 still holds enough goodwill for me to give this a tentative yes.
- IMDB informs me that Sigourney Weaver is in this which YES! but…
- ...were we just denied a Weaver sighting and is that enough for me to notch a NO? Yes and yes.
- All those explosions towards the end reminded me of Elysium (and every other action film ever made).
- Hugh Jackman + Robots = Real Steel flashbacks.
- “A.I. is unpredictable” immediately made me think of Transcendence (and of Rebecca Hall’s career; anyone have any news? Will she be given a non-thankless role soon?).
- Artificial Intelligence is a fascinating topic, but why must paranoia be pit against government involvement? Why must it always lead to things exploding and people getting shot?
- “One machine’s journey… to become his own man,” Can we talk about this tag-line? Is Chappie secretly Kal-El? Must newly sentient beings always be framed within a masculinist view of progress? Suddenly the He-Man cameo feels less awesome. Add in a "girl in danger in need of being saved" shot and this needlessly testosterone-fueled trailer is ticking all my "No" boxes.
- The "You taught me so much more" line had me eye-rolling (Might as well be “I’m just a guy, in front of his robot…”).
- The overall design and aesthetic seems particularly reminiscent of District 9 if a bit more playful and colorful (are we in a pseudo-Eastern European dystopia with a dash of punk-rock?), but there’s very little that pops in this trailer for me (give or take a bad Jackman haircut).
- That moment with the carton of milk.
- You’ll notice this from the images above, but I think there might something else going on this film despite its ho-hum, by-the-numbers trailer (with its run-of-the-mill soundtrack, flashing title cards and kaboom! ending) and it falls more in line with the fish-out-of-water humor Disney just used to promote Baymax in Big Hero 6 and which successfully launched WALL-E as an adorably Streisand obsessed curious robot.
- The insistence of seeing Chappie as a “child” seems to be aiming for a type of Lilo & Stitch (“Do you know what a black sheep is?”) and E.T. (“You’re name is… Chappie!”) dynamic. Might this be the type of film Blomkamp and Copley have in store for us? The poster is definitely more family friendly than the film this trailer is selling.
Watch and judge for yourself:
I must say I fall in the "No, thank you, I'll pass, wake me up if we were somehow duped by this subpar trailer" camp. I don't want to ask whether this film will break new ground (good or even entertaining films need not do that) but I can't quite stomach the tried-and-true uplifting human spirit in a non-human vessel that'll lead to bullets and sacrifice vibe I'm getting. Disagree? Do we think Copley & Blomkamp have another surprise hit in their robotic hands?