Film Review: Chappie

Editor's Review
  • - 9/10
    9/10

Summary

So take your robotic body of flesh and blood to the cinema to see it, and see the future of your own eternality on screen.

9/10
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 2015 has been a monumental year for me so far. Revolutions in my personal life aside, there have been two films that have really made film history for me this year: Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Inherent Vice’ – and ‘Chappie’ – the latest masterwork of District 9 Director Neil Blomkamp.

Both films left me pinned to the chair and reluctant to leave the temple of the cinema once the credits started rolling; and both films had a profoundly transformative effect on me, and made me honoured to have been a direct participant in the witnessing of the unfolding of history.

As with Blomkamp’s other efforts, the film is set in the slumdog violence of Johannesburg. The police force have made a reduction in crime rates by instituting a squadron of militarized robots to protect the city. But this is not enough for the robots’ inventor, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) – the fish he really wants to fry is the creation of Artificial Intelligence. Surreptitiously requisitioning one of his firm’s broken bots to test out his achievement, he is instantly waylaid by a series of obstructions. He gets kidnapped by a gang of miscreant misfits (played by South African Hip-Hop band, Die Antwoord) who want to use his android to steal twenty million dollars, and save themselves from being iced by the local crime lord, Hippo. And, as if that weren’t enough, co-worker Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) also has it in for Deon and his sentient creation, believing that the former’s success has been stymying the promulgation of his own militarized machines. But none of them could have predicted the immensity of Chappie (voiced by Sharlto Copley) and the way he would redefine the nature of all of their lives.

Imbued with a blank slate of consciousness, Chappie commands complete empathy from the moment he first appears onscreen. Born in a state of complete innocence and unknowing, he must grow up and mature very quickly in a world full of people out to corrupt and manipulate him for their own means, and is forced to undergo in five days what it would take most of us a lifetime to experience; running the full gamut from innocence and its loss, to prejudice, deception, exploitation, betrayal, violence, and being the constant subject of control from those around him. Deon and Yolanda take to Chappie as if he were their child; but the bellicose Ninja is only interested in using him in his own misendeavours, tricking him into stealing cars, and convincing him that it is okay to stab people as it will only make them “sleepy-weepy!” But the whole time, the clock is ticking – as his consciousness was placed inside a bot with a defective battery, he has only five days to live, and must wrestle the nature of mortality, and embark on a quest for immortality that has been the pursuit of men since the time of Gilgamesh. The narrative writhes with so many seemingly indissoluble tensions and intensions, you can hardly believe that a conclusion of any sorts will be in sight: but that is the genius of Neil Blomkamp: he can make anything possible.

Laughter and emotion will revolve dizzyingly within you in quick succession – but the way the movie confronts the theme of consciousness is the matter that will really have you spellbound. With consciousness no longer the sole preserve of men, and the ability to beget it no longer the right of the gods, Chappie will leave you feeling like a robot yourself. And that is exactly what we are. For what is the human body but an incredibly advanced piece of organic technology? It is our consciousness that is the true house of immortality, carrying us from age to age, life to life, in a sempiternal cycle of evolution, as the horizon and our spirits expand in tandem. It is the brilliance of Chappie to see this realized: a landmark of morality and spirituality.

So take your robotic body of flesh and blood to the cinema to see it, and see the future of your own eternality on screen.

 

 

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