Chappie director Neill Blomkamp has a gift for science-fiction with social-political threads.
The segregation of District 9’s aliens paralleled South Africa’s apartheid while Elysium’s space station offered an analogy for asylum and immigration. Now robot Chappie brings child development into focus when he’s captured by a gang of Johannesburg criminals.
Set against falling crime rates due to a new robotic police force, it’s Blomkamp’s crudest effort at social commentary with occasional, muddled blind alleys.
Chappie is the first sentient robot and possesses a child-like mind, enabling Blomkamp to explore the impact of bullying, exposure to violence and parental manipulation on evolving morality.
The threads are sometimes confused but Chappie’s belief in his law-breaking guardians evokes human complexity and the difficulties faced in breaking cycles of crime.
It follows that the most dangerous aspect of artificial intelligence is human influence. It’s an interesting perspective.
Chappie is filled with familiar Blomkamp misfires.
But if you work to see through this surface clutter, Chappie is another charming and rewarding, if less cogent, social satire.