Artificial Intelligence has been a potential threat to humanity for years in the world of science fiction. Mankind being overtaken by its own creation has been the focus of countless films in the last decade alone. Chappie, the newest release from Director Neill Blomkamp (District 9), is a slightly new approach to an old concept.
To help combat a world out of control, a new series of robotic Scouts have been created by the Tetra Vaal Corporation to restore order to chaos. With help from this new police force, the city of Johannesburg has been able to take a dramatic stand against the threat of gang violence and drugs. Deon Wilson, the creator of the Scout technology, has decided to take his creation to the next level and has begun working on creating a true A.I. system. While in the process of commandeering a damaged Scout unit for testing, he is kidnapped by gang members who want to use him to fight against the technology that he created. Under duress, he brings the Scout to life with the new A.I. program installed, and Chappie is born. Now Deon must find a way to save his naive creation from being corrupted and abused by his new gang “family”.
While Blomkamp has his favor actor (Shartlo Copley, District 9) handling the role of the Chappie, the film also features Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), Hugh Jackman (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Sigourney Weaver (Aliens), and the rap group known as Die Antwoord (Ninja and Yolandi Visser). If you ever wanted to see Hugh Jackman running around a movie in shorts and sporting a mullet, then this is the film for you! Jackman plays an ex-military officer who has been working on the development of a competing robotic option to the Scouts. Weaver plays the head of Tetra Vaal, the company that has produced the Scout robots. Both characters play major roles in the film, and are fun additions to the story. The most frustrating characters in the film are Ninja and Yolandi, who obviously are lacking in acting experience. If these two characters had been replaced with real actors, I think audiences would have had a much more enjoyable experience.
Chappie in many ways feels like an odd mix of story elements from both Short Circuit and Robocop. Chappie’s learning process can easily be compared to Johnny 5, the friendly little robot who just really wanted input. Chappie starts off with the mind of an infant, requiring time to acclimate to his surroundings and comprehend right and wrong. As covered in last year’s remake of Robocop, Chappie also touches on the potential risk and hesitation to mankind being patrolled by machines. The implications of robots being in control of humanity is an ongoing theme throughout the story, and is the driving factor of Jackman’s character. Finally, the question of consciousness and the soul itself play a key role in the narrative, as Chappie learns that his life-span is severely limited due to events prior to his creation.
The highlight of the film is the design and implementation of the Scouts, and specifically Chappie himself. While the robots look pretty intimidating at first, Chappie takes on new qualities and mannerisms as he evolves, allowing for the audience to connect with his naiveté. It is extremely easy to believe that these robots exist in the world, as the imagery is quite seamless. Blomkamp has always been good at visually stunning cinematic experiences, and Chappie is definitely no exception.
While the concept and themes behind Chappie might not be new to audiences, the overall experience is a fun one none the less. Blomkamp did put a new spin on some older concepts, and manages create something far more exciting to watch than his last film (Elysium). Chappie might not win any awards for the best movie of the year, but I still found a lot to enjoy.
ComicsOnline gives Chappie 3.5 out of 5 robotic adventures.
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