By 2016 the whole city of Johannesburg, South Africa, has become something of a social experiment with the majority of on-the-street policing action taken over by robots. And judging from the quick drop in crime, the high-tech tactic is working pretty well.
Deon Wilson isn't satisfied. He's the inventor of the human-size "Scout" bots that are out keeping the peace and making the defense-focused Tetra Vaal Corp. the talk of the world. What Deon would like to see, though, is a new wave of completely sentient machines, mechanical men who can write poetry or paint a landscape, mechs that can think and feel.
Deon's boss, Michelle Bradley, isn't so enthusiastic about that idea. Why "fix" what ain't broke? is her slogan. Tetra Vaal is already scooping up money hand over fist, so it's best just to make sure the Scouts simply do their job as promised.
Another guy who's not too happy with any of Deon's ideas is a fellow designer by the name of Vincent Moore. Vincent had a robot design in the works, too. Only his was an enormous, heavily weaponized jet-powered thumper called the Moose. It was an expensive, externally piloted war-bot that lost most of its development dollars once Deon's lighter and cheaper patrollers got the green light.
Never mind them, though, Deon figures. 'Cause he's already broken the code on a full-consciousness program! Now it's just a matter of sneaking out the robo-parts and building his new wunderkinds.
But there's one more group that's about to get in the way: a trio of low-rent gangbangers who are pretty frustrated with this whole robot crackdown on their way of life. So while spewing swear words and shooting stuff, they decide it's time to get their hands on a robot remote or something, a thingamajig that'll let them shut these bots down.
Their plan? Kidnap Deon Wilson and force him to fix them up.
When they grab Deon, the thugs find they've landed much more than they expected—two for the price of one, as it were. Because right there with Deon are the parts for a new robot ripe for the taking. It's an odd one, granted, acting like a big baby almost. But they'll get the machine up to speed in no time—shooting, looting and strutting just like them.
Now all we have to do is sit back and see how it all works out in a thoughtful and compelling examination of the intersection of humanity and artificial intelligence.
Only kidding. Crass and bloody apocalypse here we come!
Though gangbangers Yolandi, Ninja and Yankie are all bottom-feeding miscreants, they do form a loose family bond with their new robot child, Chappie. It's an abusive situation to be sure, but by the end of the film the thugs are actually bettered in some ways by that relationship, even to the point of actively defending their adopted bot.
Deon attempts to point Chappie to higher pursuits, encouraging him to paint and making him promise to avoid criminal activity. Chappie disregards his own imminent loss of life to help his maker, Deon.
Chappie has several childlike conversations with Deon and Yolandi about life and what happens after life. Yolandi stresses that the essence of who he is is constituted in a "soul" that dwells within him. And that that soul moves on to "another place" when you die. So when Chappie finds out he has a faulty battery limiting his lifespan, he says to Deon, "You're my maker; why did you make me so I could die?"
Evolution is mentioned in connection with Chappie's consciousness. Vincent is a bad guy who flagrantly crosses himself in times of stress.
The camera watches a short porno scene on someone's TV that reveals full-frontal female nudity. Yolandi generally wears formfitting shorts and T-shirts that show quite a bit of skin. The heavily tattooed Ninja likes showing off his physique by walking around without a shirt.
Ninja and his crew get Chappie to harm and kill humans by telling him that stabbing people simply makes them go "sleepy-weepy." The "innocent" robot subsequently hits people with ninja stars and manhandles them, leaving them bloody and moaning. Angry, Chappie takes out his "need" for revenge on a man, hitting him with a wrench, throwing him through walls and over desks, breaking his limbs and leaving him in a crumpled, bleeding and broken pile.
We see policemen bleeding out on the ground from gang shootings. Car chases send vehicles careening and crashing. Deon is pistol-whipped and slapped around by Ninja and his posse. Vincent slams Deon down on a desk and jams a gun in his face. Deon is also gut shot and left to bleed to death. For his part, Ninja is forced to kneel on the ground with the muzzle of a pistol in his mouth. A man is beaten to death with a shovel. A woman is shot five times in the chest.
War-like conflicts involve men and robots. A man is crushed and then ripped in half by a large metal claw. Scores of others are riddled with bullets—spewing blood as they die. A cluster bomb obliterates an area full of cars, buildings and people. A huge crowd riots, demolishing a downtown square.
Chappie is beaten with pipes and set on fire. One of his arms is cut off with a metal saw. He's hit in the chest with an RPG.
Crude or Profane Language
Close to 40 f-words and 20 s-words. Multiple uses of "a--," "h---" and "b--ch." God's and Jesus' names are used and abused 10 or more times total. (God's is twice combined with "d--n.") Crude words (such as "f-k" and "t-ts") and sexual pictures are drawn on the walls of the gangbanger's crib, and in some cases printed on their clothing.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Yolandi and Ninja regularly smoke cigarettes. Other thugs drink booze and smoke as well. Yankie counts out the crew's drug stash.
Other Negative Elements
Gang members constantly lie to Chappie to get him to either hurt people, kill or steal.
If you take the time to try really hard to think beneath the uncomfortably rough-edged surface of this RoboCop kind of film, you could probably dig up something of a morality play buried underneath its jumbled circuit boards and wires. For as the childlike AI Chappie is tutored into becoming a profanity-spewing, crotch-grabbing gangbanger by his crime-crazed "Daddy," one can spot an allegory telling of innocence being corrupted. And as mankind's rampant evil nature runs amok, it's Chappie's sentient goodness that eventually offers humanity a new direction.
But investing all that thought and energy in this case seems hardly worth the effort. This pic is chock-full of one-note, unlikeable characters—Chappie among them—and immensely implausible situations. Its action veers from merely unsavory toward crude and obscene to outright blanch-at-the-man-ripped-in-half gory.
And that whole issue of watching artificial intelligence and sentience intersect? No, no, never mind. Let's just say that intelligence of any stripe doesn't fare very well here.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Dev Patel as Deon Wilson; Hugh Jackman as Vincent Moore; Sigourney Weaver as Michelle Bradley; Jose Pablo Cantillo as Yankie; Sharlto Copley as Chappie; ¥o-Landi Vi$$er as Yolandi; Ninja as Ninja
March 6, 2015
June 16, 2015