The threat of Artificial Intelligence (AI) one day rising up and eliminating every human on planet earth might be fears of people like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, but if director Neill Blomkamp’s latest film is anything to go by, we should be safe – for now.
Blomkamp managed to convince Hollywood stars like Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver to act in his AI film about the titular robot Chappie, but looking at the critic reviews and opening weekend earnings, we are sure they wish they hadn’t taken him up on his offer.
Production issues and secondary character tantrums aside, the film opened in the US on Friday and by the close of the weekend, it only managed to bring in about $14 million.
Variety points out that the film opened to far lower ticket sales than Blomkamp’s previous films. Chappie closed off Friday with $4.5 million in the bank, but District 9 and Elysium opened with $37.4 million and $29.8 million respectively.
But ticket sales aside, US critics haven’t been too kind to the futuristic film shot in South Africa either.
On Sunday Chappie had an average Metacritic score of 40/100 based on 38 critic reviews. Nineteen critics gave a ‘mixed’ review, while 11 gave it a ‘negative’ score. Only 8 reviewers thought that it was worthy of a ‘positive’ rating.
The Washington Post, which gave it a score of 38%, wrote: “Despite Blomkamp’s efforts to make some kind of commentary about the human soul, which the auteur bolsters with his trademark social consciousness — a tone of preachiness that, after three films, has worn out its welcome — the movie exhibits precious little humanity.”
The Los Angeles Times was even less kind to the director. “Chappie is a movie about the evolution of artificial intelligence that’s as dumb as a post. It also marks the continuing devolution of the work of director and co-writer Neill Blomkamp.”
If you prefer a different metric, critics’ score aggregator Rotten Tomatoes has the film listed as having a 30% freshness rating.
Based on 130 counted reviews, 91 gave it a ‘Rotten’ rating (meaning it scored 59% or less), while only 31 gave it a ‘Fresh’ rating (60% or more). It also has an average rating of 4.8/10.
Rotten Tomatoes’ Critic Consensus is that “Chappie boasts more of the big ideas and visual panache that director Neill Blomkamp has become known for — and, sadly, more of the narrative shortcomings.”
Need more evidence that you should rather await the DVD’s release?
Joe Morgenstern from the Wall Street Journal wrote Chappie “Sustains a lively tension between A.I.-smart and comic-book-outlandish until the outlandishness turns to frenzy, the action grows familiar and you yearn for a robot break.”
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote “Sadly, Blomkamp’s ideas feel depleted this time, dulled by repetition and other cinematic droids that stretch from HAL 9000 to Ultron. Instead of awe, we get E.T.-aww.”
While we can’t say it was unexpected for a film that stars Die Antwoord’s Yo-Landi Vi$$er and Ninja, it definitely doesn’t bode well for Blomkamp’s Alien adaptation.
But that’s probably what you get for a film that cost $49 million to make.