Much of us have commented that we are nearly on the brink of creating artificial intelligence, but if regular people use the Siri on their iPhones to make calls or hear about the weather, then it would seem like that we have been using it for a while. When most people think about artificial intelligence, they assume that a Stephen Hawking-like machine will be able to teach a class the next day, but they don’t seem to understand the definition. Having intelligence doesn’t quite mean genius, so that intelligence could only apply to a bit of information like what your phones are telling you. So if we have this so called intelligence, then why is everyone still complaining that we don’t have it yet?
I think what people really want are computers that have the intelligence capabilities of a person; one of such that can also think and have emotions. What’s tough for most scientists is that our emotions are complicated, spreading a lot of similar ideas (such as jealousy and envy, and love and lust) that are difficult to claim a difference in. So what a lot of people seem to want out of machines and robots are artificial consciences. One such robot acquires one in Chappie.
In 2016 in Johannesburg, crime levels have gotten so high that the human police force cannot keep up with the demand and must employ robot droid to assist, as built by engineer Deon Wilson (played by Dev Patel). His machines are a success and is asked to continue providing these things by his boss Michelle (played by Sigourney Weaver), though he seems more interested in progressing the innovation of the robot mind. Meanwhile, two criminals, Ninja and Yolandi (played by the South African rap group of the same name) are planning a big heist to pay off a war lord and are looking for a way to shut off the droid to accomplish this.
The two crooks manage to kidnap Deon and find a droid in the back of his van. Deon reveals that he’s been working on a droid that can think for itself. They turn him on to see that the robot is just like a child. Yolandi names him “Chappie” (as voiced by Sharlto Copley) and decides to raise him as one of their own. Deon would rather not have his robot be trained for criminal purposes, though Ninja and Yolandi insist that they are the parents. As Chappie learns more about being alive and the privilege to think and feel, Fellow engineer Vincent Moore (played by Hugh Jackman) is looking to use a giant robot of his own creation and the existence of Chappie may finally gives him that excuse.
I’ll give credit to Chappie as it has an interesting idea of a robot with the first artificial conscience (even though I know I’ve seen this story before in Short Circuit). The robot effects are really good and barley seem like CGI. Chappie himself is well portrayed like an autistic savant and I’m intrigued to see how his emotions are developed. I just wished that the rest of the movie was just as interesting.
Director Neil Blomkamp is a man with a lot of good ideas with his stories, but they seem to have similar problems; that narrative concepts are thrown out in the middle of the story in place of more action and gunfire. There’s an entire fight with a big droid that barley feels needed, not to mention that the big heist that’s talked about is surprisingly glanced over.
My other issue with Chappie is that most of the other characters are unlikable. Ninja and Yolandi are clearly new to acting as they seem to sway from subtle to very over the top. I think that the movie was trying to make them complex characters, but their actions make them unlikable to support as protagonists. Even Hugh Jackman tends to overact a bit here. The only one I give credit for is Dev Patel who seems to breath more human emotion into his character then the other people.
I’ll give this two and a half Chappies out of five. Perhaps is Chappie’s tone was changed from a hard R adult to something more like a PG-13 blockbuster along with better direction, we might have gotten something out of this. But grim tone and bad acting prevent Chappie from showing us it’s desired thought.