Behold, the most original story you’ve seen since Short Circuit, Bicentennial Man, and Frosty the Snowman.
Chappie tells the story of a robot that comes to life. Will it have you saying “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto” or “The problem’s plain to see: too much technology”? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.
So who stars in this movie? Sharlto Copley provides the voice for our robot friend; his previous films include District 9, Elysium, and Maleficent. Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel plays scientist Deon Wilson. Hugh Jackman of the X-Men movies and Les Miserables is ex-soldier Vincent Moore, and Sigourney Weaver of Ghostbusters and the Alien franchise plays his boss, Michelle Bradley.
The director is Neill Blomkamp, whose previous films include District 9 and Elysium. Expect another gritty sci-fi flick addressing the problems of poverty, oppression, and social injustice.
The trailer begins with a news broadcast detailing the deployment of robot police Scouts in 2016. They were put in place mainly to put a stop to the Fifty Shades sequels. But Moore is unconvinced, saying artificial intelligence is too unpredictable. And considering his bout with the Sentinels last year, he has every reason to believe that. Meanwhile, Wilson, the creator of the Scouts, is ready to take the next step: a machine that can think and feel. Because giving the robots with guns access to emotions like anger, hatred, and fear is such a good idea.
Moore tries to sell his idea of a robot operated by a human being, a robot which incidentally looks a lot like ED-209. Appropriate, since their main competition is robo-cops. But no one’s buying, since it’s too ugly and expensive. Even Bradley tells him to stop worrying about his pet projects. Has no one in this world seen any robot apocalypse movie? Putting AI in control always leads to horrible outcomes, like Skynet, the Matrix, Hal 9000, or Ultron. The trailer tells us Moore’s corrupted by power, but so far, I’m siding with him.
Meanwhile, Wilson brings one of his Scout rejects to life, calling it the next step in evolution. One, that’s not how evolution works, according to theory. Two, creating life and playing God is again something we’ve seen go horribly wrong a million times before (Frankenstein, Jurassic Park). How is this a good idea again? Fortunately, Wilson manages to get the circuitry right, creating a docile, curious, child-like robot in the vein of Johnny Five (okay, what sci-fi movie haven’t I referenced yet?).
Chappie gobbles up as much input as he can by reading picture books, spilling milk, and watching He-Man. “Anything you want to do in your life, you can do,” Wilson tells him. But you can’t turn into a shirtless cartoon character by the power of Greyskull. That just doesn’t happen. Fortunately, Chappie’s ambitions are low; he wants to paint. His friends marvel as he copies an old VW Bug with all the skill of a worn-out printer.
But Moore and Bradley discover Chappie, and they’re not happy. “A thinking robot could be the end of mankind,” Bradley argues. “Burn it to ash!” Again, you’re not really wrong, but you need to learn to differentiate between Ultron and Johnny Five. One’s a psychotic murderer, the other’s a playful child. One’s dangerous, one’s harmless. Know the difference! Moore can’t tell the difference, and he fights back with his knockoff ED-209. Chappie’s survival instincts kick in, and his friend tells him to fight back. So basically, become the ruthless killing machine they’re afraid you are. This is a good plan.
The action montage kicks in as guns fire, Chappie leaps onto a truck, and Moore shuts down the robot police, causing chaos and riots. Huh, maybe we shouldn’t have been so dependent on a security system that could be shut down with a single keystroke. Moore takes a buzz saw to Chappie, some unruly teens throw a Molotov cocktail at the robot, and he takes comfort in petting a dog. He shields one of his friends, learns to fist-bump, shoots up ED-209, and says, “I am consciousness; I am alive; I am Chappie.” I am either the entirety of all existence or really bad at grammar.
So based on the trailer, do I recommend the movie? I guess so. It’s a fun action film with good actors, but if it’s trying to say something important (and knowing Blomkamp’s work, it probably is), I’m not sure what it is. For all my talk about sci-fi disasters, if someone actually created a living, thinking, feeling robot, we wouldn’t try to destroy it; we’d be thrilled! It’s a miracle! Give the man who did it a Nobel Prize! I can’t see the attitudes of this movie’s villains being realistic. If we look at the film at the fun sci-fi level, there are too many similarities to other films (especially Short Circuit) for this to be any kind of original. But if none of that bothers you, or if you loved District 9 and Elysium, you’ll probably like this film. Personally, I’m not intrigued enough by the trailer to check it out.
But at least we know Chappie’s heart is human, his blood is boiling, and his brain IBM.
Yes, I’m on a Styx kick. No, I’m not sorry.
Chappie is owned by Sony Pictures.