Rather than a remorse-free death-tornado a la The Terminator, the titular robotic lead of Chappie is the most winsome, introspective mechanical man since Wall-E. A preview for the new film finds our inhuman hero obeying Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics and just trying to live and hopefully not falling into the incident-inciting wrong hands.
“I have consciousness. I am alive. I am Chappie,” says Chappie, echoing the sentiments of Short Circuit’s Johnny 5 before him. The new film is directed by Neill Blomkamp, who is known more for the brainy effects-filled parable District 9, rather than 2012’s little-loved follow-up Elysium. In the casting coup of the century, Blomkamp nabbed the up and coming, definitely not awful, niche-rappers of Die Antwoord to play futureworld gangsters who botnap Chappie, the sentient being voiced and motion-captured by District 9 star Sharlto Copley. (Apparently, 1/2 of Die Antwoord is tougher to work with than the other half. Go figure forever.) Rounding out the cast are a mullet-sporting Hugh Jackman, who is afraid of what artificial intelligence might lead to, and Dev Patel, as the brilliant scientist too curious not to find out.
The look of Chappie, both the character and ultimately the world he inhabits, hearkens back to a short film called Tetra Vaal that Blomkamp made years ago. Considering that it stems from ideas that have been kicking around the Great Sci-Fi Hope’s head for a long time, perhaps the film, which opens March 27th, will be more of a passion project like his debut than the film that followed.