After a disappointing Elysium (2013), Neill Blomkamp comes back to his unique brand of Sci-fi with Chappie (2015): a raw-mantic tale about artificial intelligence in the same thought-provoking style that made the director famous with District 9 (2009).
In Chappie Blomkamp portrays a crime-filled Johannesburg where robots have replaced humans in police forces to preserve the lives of agents. Although the experiment is a success, the true ambition of Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), the robots’ maker, is to create the first form of artificial intelligence in the world. But his plan derails when he’s taken hostage by a local gang and is forced to give birth to Chappie in Joburg’s ruthless underworld.
Like in District 9, Blomkamp uses a simple Sci-fi plot to explore human nature and beyond. Chappie awakens with a blank consciousness soon caught between two worlds: the righteous and absolute morals of Deon and the cruel reality of Johannesburg’s poor neighborhoods where one sometimes has to compromise with his values to survive. Such is the world of Chappie’s adoptive parents Yo-Landi and Ninja, a couple of gangsta-punk – members of well-known South-African rap-rave band ‘Die Antwoord’ in real-life – who will shape Chappie’s life as much as he will transcend theirs.
Symbol of Joburg’s crime world and decay, Ponte City (Vodacom tower) is a recurring landmark in Chappie with one of the scenes filmed inside ‘the core’, the name given to its cylindrical open center. The building was also featured in the final scene of District 9.
Ponte City was built in 1975 and is 173 m (567.6 ft) high with 54 stories making it the tallest residential skyscraper in Africa. Despite its attractive location, the building fell into decay in the late 80s/early 90s with the crime rate rising in the surrounding neighborhood and gangs setting up shop within its walls. Since then, there have been a few restoration projects announced but none of them have yet come through. Nonetheless, according to recent articles, it looks like Ponte Tower is safer and cleaner than it has been. There are even tours that will take you there, that is, if you dare!
Ponte City at night
© Earth Hour (Flickr)
Ponte City’s ‘Core’
© Spach Los (Flickr)