The moment the last credits scrolled on “Chappie” (directed by Neill Blomkamp), I took a deep breath and reverted back to the scenes that were most interesting to me as a viewer: (1) the scene where his “daddy,” played by Ninja of Die Antwoord, forces him to hold a gun, and (2) the scene when Chappie is attacked by street kids, and (3) the scene when Chappie saves his maker, played by Dev Patel. I know this film is getting a lot of flack from reviewers. I mean, they have valid points in the most technical sense. Yes, films do appear to be on repeat nowadays in terms of “original” material, and yes the writing could have been more – I don’t know – existential or deep? But frankly, I had no problem with the dialogue. I enjoyed the world I was introduced to. As chaotic and cold as it was, there were elements of warm colors that stood out and beautified the set making the world look bizarre, familiar, fresh, interesting, funny, disconcerting, innocent, and tragic.
I was expecting a Frankenstein Sci-fi remake, and (MIND YOU) it was that — ending in a quasi message that humans are the real monsters. Even so, the film provided me with the opportunity to process some of the most dangerous topics discussed in our world today: abuse, violence, warfare, kidnapping/trafficking, and brainwashing. Things I know about, but have a hard time processing when sitting alone in my living room watching the late news. Children used as weapons in war, innocence being twisted and disregarded because of greed, and assuming that in all situations the adult has all the answers.
Maybe it is because I enjoy character development so much, but for me — it was a film about a kidnapped child being forced to learn and adapt to a violent environment for the purpose of money. That is what I am focusing on. I know in the real world there are deeper reasons for these issues: the cycle of violence, lack of education in troubled areas, poverty, and racism. But I am going to focus solely on the way innocence plays a role in this film. This theme was most prevalent to me in the following scenes.
The first being Ninja showing Chappie how to hold and shoot a gun. Chappie retreats his body first from Ninja, his self proclaimed father, and then from the sound of the gun. Violence, much like love, is nurtured into his psyche here as a young baby. Later as he grows and matures into a child, and Ninja uses his emotional connection to Chappie to manipulate him into thinking that people have stolen from “daddy.” Thus, Chappie must retrieve these stolen goods. Chappie, worried for his father, turns into a robot car jacking machine. I sat back and reflected on the many innocent lives in this world being lied to and used for the purpose of someone else’s desire for power/money.
The next scene that was incredibly difficult to watch as Chappie (still a robot child) being dropped off in the middle of nowhere, so that he can learn to be tough. In this scene, he is attacked by street kids. The scene touches on bullying, and how someone’s exterior doesn’t necessarily reflect what or who they are on the inside. Chappie still has his “POLICE” sign on his chest, and as the street kids approach him (for fear themselves), they say he’s “broken” when they realize he speaks like a child, and attack him. Chappie is powerless against their physical abuse. He cannot compute why on earth they would want to stone and burn his body. I was in tears as his voice pleaded with them, “Why do you throw at me?” His language underdeveloped and his desire to understand mixed in with confusion and pain was difficult to watch. Additionally, Ninja’s wish for Chappie to be more manly and tough also provides us with the issue of gender roles. Earlier in the film, Chappie is caught playing with a doll that looks like his “mommy” (played by Yo-Landi Visser of Die Antwoord), thus making Ninja lose it and take him out to the streets to find his own way home.
One of the last scenes shows Chappie saving his creator, Dev Patel. Now as a grown adolescent, Chappie saves his creator by making him into a robot machine. Symbolically, this part was brilliant as Chappie gave his creator a chance to be a better version of himself, a pure hearted robot. I am, of course, basing this on the themes of the film, not necessarily because I believe that robots are indeed purer than human beings.
It was the innocence prevailing in the world’s harshness that made this film for me. Plus, it was kind of cool to think that our consciousness could be transferred into a machine with use of a USB. What?!
Watch this film, make your own conclusions, and above all — have fun!
* 4 out of 5 Alien Heads from me. *