In the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. But now, the people are fighting back. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. As powerful, destructive forces start to see Chappie as a danger to mankind and order, they will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo and ensure that Chappie is the last of his kind. Written by Sony Pictures Entertainment
Chappie is the latest SciFi epic from South African writer/director Neill Blomkamp, follows the development of the world’s first self-aware artificial intelligence. The movie’s central theme is heavily inspired by Robocop, and Blomkamp pays homage by voicing the Scouts with Peter Weller’s Robocop voice, and styling the Moose (an alternate design) on Robocop’s ED-209. Although there are obvious parallels between the two movies, Blomkamp has interleaved a thematic complexity not present in Robocop.
Chappie enters the world as a blank sheet, a child with no moral code or understanding of the wider world. The movie follows his development, squeezed into a few short days, from innocent child to responsible adult exploring the influences and events that shape our personalities. I could probably write a thesis on the sub-plots and themes in this movie but here’s the principle questions I noted throughout the movie:
• Should we allow machines employ lethal force without human intervention?
• Can religious belief be twisted to defend amoral actions and ideas?
• Will the creation of artificial intelligent life bring about the end of humanity?
• How does parental abuse affect child development?
• Does an abuser still love their child?
• Is a child’s future determined by their environment?
Despite this subplot complexity, the basic narrative is enjoyable and action sequences believable given the technologic advances present in their world. Dev Patel gives a masterful performance as the awkward genius who creates life then fights to maintain its purity in a violent upbringing. Hugh Jackman has fun with the unfamiliar role of bad guy Vince Moore, a former soldier and designer of an alternate policing robot remotely controlled by a human pilot. The juxtaposition of Moore’s twisted Christian morals and Chappie’s simple adherence to his Maker’s commandants is the most poignant theme throughout the movie for me.
Die Antwoord’s Ninja gives an over-the-top performance as a criminal gang leader, and his partner Yo-landi is believable as gang member turned nurturing mother. Neither is going to win awards for their performances but I thought they worked within Blomkamp’s narrative, which he apparently developed while listening to Die Antwoord’s music.