I treated myself this weekend to a trip to the cinema and saw ‘Chappie’, the movie by Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) about a future where robots are policing the streets due to the rise in violence and police officer deaths.
‘Chappie’ is a “bullet magnet” police droid which operate within set parameters but their creator, played by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) dreams of the droids becoming something more. When Chappie is to be decommissioned, the creator sees an opportunity to trial his artificial intelligence program, with mixed results and is where the movie really takes off. What makes us human, what makes us who we are?
Chappie ends up being ‘brought up’ by a gang of thieves to assist them in completing a big heist. Chappie’s creator tries hard to tell him that this life style is wrong and makes him promise not to commit any killings. The battle for Chappie’s soul is interesting as the creator and the gang try to shape him in the mould they want. One scene shows the creator with Chappie trying to teach him about his potential by teaching him to paint, the next shows his criminal ‘Daddy’ showing Chappie the brutal reality of the ‘real world’ out on the street when he dumps him in the middle of nowhere unable to protect himself from people who have grown up to hate the police.
‘Chappie’ I thought was a wonderful film that touches on a number of the big, philosophical questions that plagued humanity since we became self aware; why do we die? What is it that makes us who we are? If God exists, why would he make us so fragile and easy to die? Are we destined to take certain paths through nature or nurture?
These questions are all wrapped up in a quirky movie that is both touching and inspiring. Without getting bogged down in the religious questions raised within the movie, I would focus on the question of the role environment plays on our development. The journey of Chappie from infantile robot to ‘number 1 gangsta’ illustrates vividly the role our environment plays in our development and help to see that no future is set in stone if we can create the right environment from which people cn flourish.
Neill Blomkamp has made a movie which everyone should see, not quite a family movie, but certainly one that could be used to highlight to teenagers that there is no fate but what we make and to show us adults that no one should be thrown on the scrap heap just because of the rough start they might have had in childhood.