When the first footage for the upcoming new film from Neill Blomkamp, Chappie, was unveiled, it seemed that the director, best known for deep, R-rated science fiction thrillers had turned a stylistic page, moving on to what seems to be a comedic crowd-pleaser about a lovable robot that gains self-awareness and learns about life with a child-like innocence. Well, seeing as the MPAA just dealt the film an R-rating, it appears that our expectations about any family-friendly turns were wrong. However, the reason that has been given for that rating is even more vexing.
The film’s head-scratching rating can be viewed on Box Office Mojo’s release schedule for everyone to wonder at in awe. What could possibly be the reason for such hard turn for a film that is basically about a futuristic Pinocchio? Well, apparently it’s due to:
violence, language and brief nudity.
… Let’s backtrack a bit. Let me describe in as much detail as feasibly possible exactly WHAT movie - which features the impeccable cast of Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Dev Patel and Sharlto Copley (who performs motion-capture for the titular robot) - just received an R-rating. After this description is done, it will be apparent how surreal it is that, amongst other seemingly anachronistic things for a film like this, that the culprit for its rating is NUDITY.
Chappie is a film from District 9 and Elysium director, Neill Blomkamp set in the near future in which an army of self-thinking and analyzing robotic policeman have been unleashed upon Johannesburg to uphold the law in an objective way- unclouded by the inter-personal conflict that comes with a human police force. However, one of them, dubbed "Chappie," gains sentience and begins an odyssey of curiosity meant to make us hardened jaded moviegoers feel good about life and remember to be grateful for the fundamentals. Chappie’s essentially a child, who watches He-Man cartoons and spends his time painting and reading. He’s a lovable hunk of talking tin with bunny ears who starts a friendship with a young girl and some other colorfully eccentric street kids and begins every sentence in the third person. It makes one wonder exactly what nude scene could possibly be so critical to the film that Blomkamp felt had to be kept in, even to the film's possible financial detriment?
The trailer makes every indication that this is a life-affirmer, laced with maybe a hint of Blomkamp-esque in-your-face action mixed with just enough political agitprop not to be seen as pretentious. However, it clearly looked like the kind of film that people might want to bring their kids to see. As we have learned with this recent revelation, Chappie the lovable robot who comes to life and befriends cute, cyberpunky street urchins will share the same MPAA rating as Fifty Shades of Grey and will do so for roughly the SAME REASON. Is this self-sabotage? Or a bold move betting that the 17 and over crowd are going to be stoked for something that, given a name change, could pass as an edgier, modernized reboot of Short Circuit?
We shall certainly get the answer when Chappie makes its way to theaters on March 6th.