What Went Right With… Sharlto Copley?


A caricature of Sharlto Copley by

Sharlto Copley is definitely an underrated Actor. His exaggerated and sometimes caricatured performances (such as Howling Mad Murdock in the A-Team remake) and his involvement in mediocre films (such as the Oldboy remake or Maleficent) are seen by many as either trivial or lowbrow and Copley’s acting therefore isn’t taken as seriously as it should. But if you look at the variety of Sharlto’s roles and acknowledge his onscreen presence, it’s quite clear that he’s a talented Actor, to me his skills are being underused, undervalued, and quite frankly wasted.

Sharlto Copley always brings a sense of fun to any movie he appears in; from the mild-mannered, nerdy bureaucrat in District 9, to the macho yet psychopathic agent in Elysium, all the way to the adorable robot Chappie, Sharlto Copley is always enjoyable to watch, in fact most of the time he is the sole reason to view a Neill Blomkamp film. When Blomkamp’s plot wavers and the allegorical subtext seems muddled, Copely still shines through the wannabe-parable-cum-fable storyline to deliver a great performance time and again.

Chappie in particular, has to be one of the greatest motion capture performances in recent years, and despite some moronic critics likening the character to Jar Jar Binks from the Star Wars prequels, there is no way Chappie is as annoying or as one-dimensional as Binks. In my opinion, Sharlto’s Mo-cap character is up there with Andy Serkis’ Golem or Toby Kebbel’s Koba, but whereas these two characters had the full gamut of facial expressions to convey emotions and sentiment, Chappie sported almost no features at all. But, even without a humanoid face and even without any facial expressions, the dot-matrix eyed and mouthless conscious robot still managed to communicate a whole range of feelings thanks to Copley. His use of body movement coupled with the lovable voice he gave the character, were the only two methods of conveying personality and yet Chappie sported a charm and identity that rivalled other more manlike creations, this for me showed the amount of talent Sharlto has. Although the movie’s point of view seemed confused and despite the ending of the film being a horrid transhumanist piece of propaganda, the actual character of Chappie remains one of the greatest and most endearing creations since E.T. or The Iron Giant.

It’s always strange why the most charismatic and the most talented people are relegated to the supporting cast even though, quite obviously they’re the most gifted performers on screen. It seems that Sharlto Copley despite being one of the most watchable and entertaining Actors out there is still on the fringes of Hollywood. His sporadic inclusion in films is either intentional on his part or the movie business doesn’t recognize talent when it’s right in front of their face. If the most inept and uncharismatic people can make it to the upper echelons of Hollywood then why can’t someone with genuine skills “make it”?

The A-List Team.

4 replies »

  1. I couldn’t agree more! Sharlto Copley is a talented actor and Chappie is proof. Speaking of Neil Blomkamp, I have only seen Elysium and Chappie. I’m starting to think Blomkamp is overrated. Two movies is usually not enough to have a well-informed judgement of a person’s work. But Blomkamp only made three movies so far, so it’s enough to judge him. Elysium is okay as a Sci-Fi action movie, but as social commentary, it has nothing important to say. On the surface, it may have touched upon immigration and inequality, but that’s not fully explored. The same could be said for Chappie. I liked Chappie more than Elysium because of the way they developed the character of Chappie. Chappie is a character full of charm and emotion (you can credit Copley for it). Throughout the movie, Chappie grows from a child-like and naive character into a confident, caring character willing to protect his friends. But again, it fails as social commentary. What is Chappie trying to say? The ending is straight bullshit. How could you transfer someone’s consciousness from a human body to a robot? That made zero sense. I might watch District 9 at some point, but from the looks of things Blomkamp sucks as social commentator.

    • Exactly, Blomkamp’s commentary is very confused. Chappie could have made a point about parents and children, God and the Devil and their influence on humans, how humans make robots in our image hence a religious subtext, but the ending ruined all of that. District 9 also misses the mark (I haven’t watched it in a long time but I remember being disappointed). Sharlto Copley seems to be the main reason to watch Neill Blomkamp’s movies. I’m also going to rent Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire based on the strength of Copley’s performance, and coincidently Wheatley is another director who misses the mark when it comes to message (High-Rise comes to mind).

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