EMINE – ‘Chappie’: our friends the robots

‘Chappie’: our friends the robotsSouth African director Neill Blomkampand#39s sleeper hit andldquoDistrict 9andrdquo was not only a stunning sci-fi action thriller, but was also one of the best contemporary satires on global class division and racism through the unexpected angle of an alien invasion.His second film andldquoElysium,andrdquo starring Matt Damon, although presented as another stunning piece of craftsmanship, sadly turned out to be a soulless and mediocre interstellar story catered to the needs of Hollywood producers who obviously chose not to fully exploit the directorand#39s earlier vision of political outspokenness.

Thankfully with his third and newest film, Blomkamp returns to his South African roots, again giving us a jagged sci-fi tale based in none other than andldquoDistrict 9and#39sandrdquo beloved Johannesburg.Itand#39s not so much the very familiar robotic origin story that is so engaging in andldquoChappie,andrdquo but the convincing characterization and voice of long-time collaborator Sharlto Copley, who brings flesh and blood to a titanium skeleton.

It is the near future, and the crime rate of Johannesburg has plummeted thanks to an elite force of indestructible police robots roaming the city. The robots are basic creations, manufactured to follow orders and not to think on their own.

However, their creator Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), a genius engineer who looks like heand#39s fresh out of MIT, believes that the robots are capable of much more. For example, if they had artificial intelligence or simply consciousness, perhaps humanity could really benefit.

His boss, a corporate heiress played by none other than andldquoAlienand#39sandrdquo Sigourney Weaver, is not having any of it — the profits are good, the police force is continuously buying the mass-produced titanium robots and thereand#39s really no need for a robot that can write poetry or sing a song.Meanwhile, the companyand#39s other engineer, the religious zealot Vincent (Hugh Jackman in an intentionally off-putting haircut) is trying to get the boss to license his own mega-robot, which looks like itand#39s been on a holiday in the seventh corridor of hell.

Vincent is also secretly plotting against Deon — the ex-Marine muscleman canand#39t stand the nerd and his soft-spoken nature.While Deon works secretly on his AI project, a drug trafficking operation goes completely wrong for the gangster team Ninja and Yolan-di (locally famous South African musicians who also use the same names in real life) and somehow, just forget the plot lin, Ninja and Yolan-di decide to kidnap Deon so he can rewire a police robot so that it will aid them in another heist.

What a great opportunity for the young genius to finally test his AI program away from the prying eyes of the company!Once Chappie is born, everything takes a left turn. At first he is like a human child, trying to learn and grasp the world around him He adopts Yolan-di as his mother, Ninja as his father and Deon as his andldquomakerandrdquoWith a thematic mishmash of andldquoPinocchio,andrdquo andldquoRobocopandrdquo and andldquoA.

I,andrdquo we watch how Chappie becomes a truly emotional creature with a very keen sense of his own existence. It isnand#39t any surprise that eventually his biggest fear becomes his own death.

But this nature versus nurture story also has a very interesting point of view on violence and aggressive behavior — co-writers Blomkamp and Terri Tatchelland#39s screenplay consistently emphasizes how Chappieand#39s true and inert nature (pointing at human nature) is that of compassion and a refusal to use power and violence despite the manipulations of his crime-lord foster parents.In situations when Chappie realizes that he might be hurting someone, his consciousness is overcome with conscience.

But this very important notion doesnand#39t seem to matter for anyone except Deon, especially for the characters of Weaver and Jackman, who want the robot to be taken down immediately.With an upbeat tempo and non-stop rhythm, this film moves steadily forward to its unavoidable gunfire showdown between the various heroes, villains and heroes-turned-villains.

However, what is so interesting and refreshing about this film is the undeniably engaging, emotional journey of an intelligent robot that comes to terms with the very basic concepts of family, trust and love in the most unlikely of places and situations.While the film is a study of the opposing concepts of the inspiring force of creation and blind destruction, at heart it is an ode to all conscious and living creatures of this earth, whether they are organic or made of tin.

andldquoChappieandrdquo is a film that believes in the restoring power of technology, even though aanced technology might be in the hands of profiteers and those who are driven by a thirst for power The naive but genuine belief that there will always be at least one selfless and philanthropic person trying to aid humanity is simply moving.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman