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The Craft Opinion Brewery (T.C.O.B.) #3 by Leonidas Michael


CHAPPIE*, MY FRIENDS AND I

Last month, I came out strongly in favour of leaving early when a film isn’t doing it for you. I wound up my arguments, however, by asking if such a reaction is feasible when you go to the cinema in company.

Before I answer, let me remind you that it is impossible to serve two masters at once (or mistresses, or a master and a mistress, as the case may be). Similarly, no one ever enjoyed a film who was anxious that the person with them (boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse… as the case may be) would enjoy it. Either your personal taste is sacrosanct or you make the pleasure of good company your higher purpose.

So, assuming you are determined to serve your personal taste, you ought to leave early should the film fail to impress. In doing so, you will derive all the advantages discussed previously. And, since the personal taste of whoever else is in your company is irrelevant, you will have no immediate regrets.

In the long-run, however, you’re likely to find yourself going to the cinema without company at all. I, myself, epitomise this general rule.

Ideally, we should all go to see films with people whose taste matches ours and who react exactly as we do when the common taste is offended. Realistically, this is all but impossible to achieve. So if the thought of saying “one, please” whenever you step up to the box office gives you vertigo, it is advisable to accept films rather as an excuse for pleasurable social intercourse.

As I said, I’ve been constrained to watch many a film on my own as a result of a – some would say completely unreasonable – desire to vindicate my personal taste. But some time ago a group of friends who weren’t entirely fed up with me asked me to join them for a night at the cinema. It was proposed we should see Chappie. Touched by what I took to be their solicitude, I accepted.

My friends were careful to inform me that Chappie was a sci-fi action drama with touches of comedy directed by South African Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium). They told me that it was set in Jo’burg and featured Sharlto Copley, Die Antwoord duo Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser, and Brandon Auret. Nor did they neglect to mention that the local stars were supported by a few Hollywood A-listers: Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), Sigourney Weaver (Avatar) and Hugh Jackman, who finally returns to his Aussie roots (“g’day, mate”, khaki shorts, mullet). My solicitous friends revealed that the story was about the misadventures of a police robot that was reprogrammed to feel emotions and think for itself. They suggested I look in Wikipedia if I required more details. Not wanting to leave any stone unturned, they went so far as to intimate that Die Antwoord and none other than Hans Zimmer were credited for the soundtrack.

It occurred to me that my dear friends might have been telling me all that because they really wanted me to refuse their invitation. But, as I had already made up my mind to focus on being good company, I listened without so much as raising an eyebrow.

Moreover, I sat through the one hundred and twenty minutes of Chappie with similar equanimity. The soundtrack did test my nerves very severely in parts. Though, as I would find out, the film jarred in some way or other with everyone’s tastes.

Only one of the friends was a sci-fi buff. He freely admitted to having watched Short Circuit numerous times in his childhood, youth and as an adult, most recently two weeks before. He was happy that Blomkamp had effectively reinterpreted the core premise of the 1986 genre classic. Nonetheless, he thought that Chappie failed to attain the dramatic intensity of its predecessor. And although he was hugely impressed with the CGI and action sequences, he added that the film on the whole fell short of Robocop, the definitive opus on robotic policing.

His opinion was backed to some extent by another member of our company. He’s an up-and-coming provincial rugby player – not an intellectual, but his opinion is worth noting. While agreeing that Chappie “wasn’t ready for the A-team, it definitely had the potential.” Quite simply, its budget of $49 million had been too small. Had it been double that, it would have “walked all over Short Circuit, Robocop and every other American film in the genre.” He loved the soundtrack, by the way.

But another companion – a corporate tax lawyer – insisted that Chappie was better than any robotic policing film to date. She roundly rejected, however, the notion that this was due in any way to its assumed potential to assert anachronistic, white, male values such as walking over foreign rivals. What moved her was the film’s endeavour to explore the theme of consciousness: what does it mean to be human? Sadly it was severely hampered, in her opinion, by “dire” acting. And she went on to say some terrible things about Yo-Landi Visser in particular.

At that point I intervened to point out that the acting had not been as bad as that. I had no problem affirming this because my taste/reaction circuit had long been deactivated. I was merely trying to be pleasant to my company. So was my corporate tax lawyer friend, it would seem. For she immediately moderated her opinion. I’d go as far as to say that we’d all short-circuited our personal expectations for the sake of being nice to one another. My next proposal – to rate Chappie 7 out of 10 – was adapted with unanimity.

Curiously enough, our modest estimation of Chappie nearly coincided with the film’s average viewer rating on IMDb. Our sci-fi buff pointed it out. But by then we were comfortably settled in a nearby restaurant (that served craft beer, of course) and our conversation has taken a decidedly less abstract but nonetheless equally pleasant turn.

Let us leave the enquiry into the meaning of film ratings for the next time.

Long Beach Brewery was forged by two guys with a passion to create crisp, refreshing handmade craft beers with the finest ingredients. The brewery is named after the famous Cape Town surf and horse-riding destination and situated in Cape Town's beautiful, Noordhoek valley. Their craft beer selection includes: Bomb Shell, a Belgium style Blonde ale, Green Room, an Indian pale ale or Deep Water, their dark ale and stout Porter. They say only a surfer knows the feeling... Long Beach Brewery's aim is to make it possible for everyone to "know the feeling". Buy Now

*The 2015 sci-fi action film is the chief ingredient in this month’s craft opinion. T.C.O.B. believes in hedonism through innovation.