Neill Blomkamp’s “Chappie”: No Gray Robots

Neill Blomkamp, the creator of District 9 and Elysium, is working on a new film called Chappie , about a group of scientists who create a robot who can think and feel for itself, and about its struggles to learn and find its place in the world.

I’ve watched the trailer, which is all that we know about the movie so far, and thusly of course it’s hard to make a full discussion about the film just based on those few minutes. However, the trailer itself seems so trite and empty that it makes me want to discuss it, and to a larger extent the “genre”, if we can call it that, of the Pinocchios, of things not alive that want to be human, and it seems to me that there’s a lot of ground these films don’t cover-these A.I.s want to be adorable and human, as in the case of Johnny 5, the Iron Giant, Machine,  Pinocchio himself, and a half-dozen I’m not thinking of at this moment, not to mention the ones that have aliens instead of robots as the central figure.

I’m trying really hard not to be a cynical bastard. I’m not seeing anything new or amazing or original here. “Artificial intelligence is too unpredictable!” Are there evil robots in this world? Sorry, I know, if you don’t like it why comment? It’s just that I’d like to see a film about a robot who doesn’t want to be human but instead explore what it means to be a robot. It seems like we either have good or evil, not both, and that’s just too simplistic. Humans aren’t all evil or good, why should something that wants to BE human fall into those narrow areas?Are our only options Ultron or Chappie, Data or Lore? Is there only black or white?

I suppose it’s the same reason there are so many cookie-cutter action films and rom-coms and horror films: the studios know what works and is safe and profitable. There’s no problem with this approach, since it’s a business and risks without rewards are not a winning prospect if you want to make money. I just feel that there’s such a rich and unexplored area here that could be the basis for good films that would make a buck AND make us think, and people are being sold short on the possibilities, which is a disservice to everyone concerned. Johnny 5 can be alive, but what happens next? That’s the story I want to see, the robot teenage years, not just the miracle of artificial birth. It’s easy to make us cry, harder to make us think.



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